Welcome to the WebTV/MSN TV Wiki! WebTV, later known as MSN TV, is an internet access device consisting of a set top box that utilized dial-up access (and later on, broadband), using a keyboard and remote for user input. It was also a specialized service complementing said devices that they would connect to for access to the general internet and WebTV/MSN TV's own online services. The product and service launched in 1996 as WebTV, and a year later the company behind this technology, WebTV Networks, was acquired by Microsoft. WebTV later became MSN TV circa 2001, and the entire service would eventually be discontinued on September 30, 2013. This wiki is NOT about the "WebTV for Windows" application bundled with Windows 98, which is essentially a souped up TV tuner, nor is this wiki about any video streaming services with "Web TV" in the name.
What we are accomplishing with this wiki is to seek out, collect, and document as much information as we can gather on the WebTV/MSN TV internet product's hardware, services, protocols, and other subjects concerning it. Much to the surprise of many, WebTV/MSN TV did indeed already have people focused on learning about the product and how it worked, primarily in its hacking scene. Up until 2021, however, only surface level information about the product and service (especially in regards to its many vulnerabilities), or basic writeups about the technical portions of WebTV/MSN TV were available for public consumption, with most information about WebTV/MSN TV either remaining undocumented, poorly preserved, or in regards to some technical information, circulated privately by select people, never to see the light of day. We're here to make up for that and make all information on WebTV/MSN TV centralized, public, and easily accessible, using information that we have been able to obtain from scene sites, from our own research, and in private from those who know a bit about the product/service. We are here to rip open the guts of the entire WebTV/MSN TV service and technology and make it known for all!
For now, this wiki will mostly focus on the first generation of WebTV/MSN TV (pre-MSN TV 2) technologies and services, and try to make sense of how they worked. We hope to extend on other information we have though, especially with information concerning the MSN TV 2 seeing as information on that variant of the product and corresponding service specifically is extremely endangered, moreso than the first generation of WebTV/MSN TV products to our knowledge.
Do you or someone you know have any crucial WebTV-related information we're seeking to preserve? Check out our Wanted page.
Interested in backing up your WebTV/UltimateTV/DishPlayer hard drives for any reason? Check out the guide we recently wrote on doing that: Backing Up WebTV (MSN TV) Hard Drives.
UPDATE - 12/16/2021: We've done something that we thought we would never be able to. We were able to simulate some of the MSN TV 2 login process, and we didn't even need any web servers for this! Check out the shocking evidence at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWxO_8-0zOU.
UPDATE - 11/28/2021: Major news! With the help of natalie/agirisan, we were able to salvage the contents of a Sony INT-WJ200 box's hard drive, and we not only got a TellyScript out of it, but two Japanese WebTV firmware builds and other goodies we'll eventually cover in the future. TellyScript is named "JP_WTV_20000616.tok" on the content archive under "First-Gen WebTV and MSN TV > TellyScripts and DialScripts", and the builds are now uploaded to the WebTV/MSN TV ROM collection on Archive.org (which you should be able to find with a simple Google search).
UPDATE - 11/14/2021: New guide created with more clear and up-to-date instructions on hacking MSN TV 2 boxes to run Linux. Check it out: Installing Linux on the MSN TV 2 (RM4100).
UPDATE - 9/6/2021: So I've gotten word that MEGA isn't the best file host, as it'll remove data from an account if it's inactive for a certain period of time. Fun. Because I'd rather not risk having the content I've uploaded there to suddenly be removed and lost again due to an arbitrary policy, I'll start making changes to how I treat the content archive effective immediately. First off, the demos and all the firmware for both first gen WebTV/MSN TV and MSN TV 2 are already uploaded to Archive.org and for the foreseeable future will only be available through there. I'll also consider uploading some of the other important content at risk of being lost (tools, internal documentation, etc.) to Archive.org as well pretty soon. Second, once I eventually get the high-risk content moved off, I'm definitely considering moving the content archive to another file host and limiting its use to hosting smaller content that would otherwise not be suitable for Archive.org IMO. So things like TellyScripts and protocol captures will stay there, at least for now (also I'm not stopping anyone from reuploading that stuff themselves :)). Also will be changing links to the affected material once this update is out. Wiki admin signing out.
For older updates: Archived Updates
- SNAP2 Corporation
- Doom for WebTV
- Data Formats
- WebTV Viewer
- WebTV for Dreamcast
- Client Commands
- WebTV Upgrade History