Microsoft has announced that it is ditching its Encarta encyclopaedia software suggesting that sites like Wikipedia have forced the service into the wings.

"On October 31, 2009, MSN Encarta Web sites worldwide will be discontinued, with the exception of Encarta Japan, which will be discontinued on December 31, 2009", Microsoft said in a statement on the Encarta website.

Microsoft blames a shift in attitude claiming that "the category of traditional encyclopaedias and reference material has changed".

Microsoft will cease to sell Microsoft Student and Encarta Premium software products worldwide by June 2009.

"People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past. As part of Microsoft’s goal to deliver the most effective and engaging resources for today’s consumer, it has made the decision to exit the Encarta business".

MSN Encarta Premium monthly and annual subscribers who have an active subscription as of 30 April, 2009, will receive a refund to their credit card prorated for any subscription fees paid beyond 30 April, 2009 according to the company.

They will continue to have access to MSN Encarta Premium until the service is discontinued on 31 October, 2009.