The challenge of knowing the difference between MSNBC.com MSNBC the cable news network may be over by next week, if a deal to separate from Microsoft goes through as quickly as The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz says it will."The announcement of the corporate divorce is expected within days, although there could always be a last-minute snag," Kurtz reported on Wednesday.

It seems like whenever you read coverage of the confusing partnership between Microsoft and NBC, half the article gets taken up by explaining the background: The software giant and network teamed up to launch both MSNBC and MSNBC.com in 1996 "during the web's early emergence as a news vehicle," as Adweek's Mike Shields put it when first reporting the proposed split in May. But in 2005, when Microsoft dropped its involvement in the network, the computer company stayed involved in MSNBC.com, a separate business from the network.

So now you have MSNBC,  the network that features Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz and you have MSNBC.com, "which does original reporting as well as aggregating content from the AP, Reuters, New York Times and elsewhere," as Kurtz writes. Confusing things further, of course, there's NBC News, which is NBC's news operation. "While the site is populated with Today Show and NBC News content, it's far more of a general news outlet than its TV counterpart," Shields wrote.

Confusing, right? It's not much easier for NBC's management, apparently. "NBC executives have grown frustrated at not having sole control of the MSNBC website," Kurtz writes. "The company has worried about the brand confusion caused by its straight-news site bearing the same name. And the cable channel has lacked a site solely devoted to pushing its personalities." So after the split the website currently known as MSNBC.com will get rebranded NBCNews.com, and its employees will move out of Microsoft's Redmond, WA. campus. Easing the separation—and hopefully keeping traffic up—will be MSN, Microsoft's huge landing page, which will continue feeding NBCNews.com.