Windows Live Spaces to Take on Social Networking Services - 27 Jul 2006

At Microsoft's annual Financial Analyst Meeting today, Kevin Johnson, co-president of the Platforms & Services Division, will reveal the next version of Microsoft's blogging service, which will be renamed from MSN Spaces to Windows Live Spaces. Windows Live Spaces will pick up MSN Spaces' blogging and photo sharing features and power Microsoft's drive into the social networking market currently dominated by My Space.

"Social networking services today are like the Wild West," Microsoft Product Manager Larry Grothaus told me during a recent briefing. "What we're doing is letting people start out with their inner ring of friends and then expand out."

What Microsoft is doing, essentially, is prepping a release of Windows Live Spaces that improves performance, increases integration, cobrands with other Windows Live services, and innovates social networking. Instead of users connecting to virtually anyone they find online, as is done today with most social networking services, Windows Live Spaces' users will start with access to people they know, then gain access to their friend's friends--given the right permissions--and branch out from there. "It's the way the real world works," says Moz Hussain, group product manager for MSN Spaces.

Windows Live Spaces will include several new UI features that will enable this scenario and help link the service to other Windows Live properties, such as Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Mail. A new Friends Explorer will help users discover what's new with their friends and find other users with similar interests. The MSN Spaces UI is being dramatically overhauled with a pop-up Jewel menu (similar to the Jewel menu in Office 2007), an integrated search box, and richer themes. Windows Live Spaces can be extended with drag-and-drop gadgets--similar to those used on can provide almost any functionality imaginable.

So far, MSN Spaces has proven to be enormously popular. The service sports 123 million unique users, with roughly 3 million users visiting MSN Spaces every second. Users upload six million photos to the service every day, requiring 1TB of additional storage every nine days. To put these numbers in perspective, it took MSN Messenger six years to reach 160 million users: MSN Spaces will reach 130 million users in only 18 months.

Microsoft expects to ship Windows Live Spaces by mid-August. Windows Live Spaces will integrate with the current version of Windows Live Messenger and the recently released Windows Live Toolbar, which adds several interesting features to Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), including new smart menus that detect phone numbers, addresses, and other useful information in Web pages and make it easier to interact with people. You can download Windows Live Toolbar now from the Windows Live Web site.

TAGS: Windows 8
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