For the past two years, I've been working on a complete overhaul of the MSDN publishing system. Tim Ewald was one of the principal forces behind this effort, but there were plenty of other really smart people involved, too: I am not at all kidding to say that merely keeping up with them was difficult.
Well, quietly, last week, the first publicly accessible incarnation of what we've been doing went up at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/library/. We weren't supposed to spill the beans yet, but Jenfeng Zhang broke the news, and we've gotten the go-ahead to blog about it.
This is a complete rewrite of the MSDN publishing engine, from the ground up; we started with zero code. Of course, you'll notice that the look-and-feel of the docs remains largely the same: most of the changes lurk beneath the surface. For example, the entire publishing process is now deeply XML-oriented. Content comes in as XML, gets processed as XML, gets stored as XML, and even gets rendered as XHTML. This is going to allow MSDN to introduce a lot more services around their extremely rich set of documents...just wait and see.
Of course, some of the changes are visible, too. You've probably noticed that the URLs are vastly improved. For example, you can now surf to http://msdn2.microsoft.com/library/System.IO.Compression.GZipStream to get documentation about the new GZipStream class. We call this an alias. The “real” URL for this document is http://msdn2.microsoft.com/library/zs4f0x23.aspx, where “zs4f0x23” is what we call the short ID for the doc. We did a lot of work to make sure that this identifier is stable, so that URLs won't break.
Even though I've now finished my involvement with the project, I'm pretty excited about this release. It is the most significant (largest scale) piece of software I've ever shipped, and a lot of my code is running in it. Not that I was the primary developer, but there will be MSDN devs maintaining my code for quite some time to come. I learned a ton, not only from Tim, but from a woman named Kim Wolk without whom this software literally never would have shipped. She hates it when I mention her name, but I think she deserves more credit on this release than any other single person on the team, and it would be a crime if no one came out and pointed her out as the hero of this project.
So go give it a test drive and let MSDN know what you think. It's only an alpha, so don't be too surprised if something breaks or doesn't work the way you'd expect, but take my word for it: this is a huge step forward for MSDN, and by extension, for the developers that rely on it.