Watching the various kinds of feedback about MSN Spaces has been illuminating. You have the geeks posting about not having enough power user features such as Robert Scoble in his post MSN Spaces isn't the blogging service for me, there are the average non-technical users who've been giving us great feedback about the sites usability and then there are the analysts who've clued in to the social software revolution happening at MSN.
The data JupiterResearch has on blogging suggests the large body of blogs aren't widely read--and for good reason, I figure. The interest is limited. So, Jane is struggling with her boyfriend Tarzan and blogs about her travails. But, maybe, only some friends follow the breakup blog. To most people, it's just another romance gone bad, and there are plenty of those to be found.
So MSN Spaces takes a different approach, by extending existing assets to create community. For starters, public profiles, such as for MSN Messenger or MSN Chat, tie into the individual's blogspace. Additionally, Microsoft uses MSN Messenger to create presence and even limit access. For example, blogspace access can be limited to people on the MSN Messenger buddy list. That's a smart use of IM presence. Similarly, IM buddies are notified when a user has updated his or her MSN Spaces blogsite.
Additionally, Microsoft adds a wall of protection for people that might want to blog for some folks but not the whole World Wide Web. Users can restrict blogspace access to people they choose from their MSN address book. Additionally, by default, trackbacks to blogspace content is restricted to other MSN Spaces sites. The user can open access to the entire Web or restrict trackbacks altogether. For people looking to blog for a community of friends or family, the privacy protection makes sense. As a parent, I feel uneasy about posting pics of my daughter in a blog photo album for the entire world to see. MSN Spaces would create a safe haven for just the people I would want to see the pictures.
In a follow-up blog, I'll look at some of the other MSN Spaces community-oriented features.
When I look at Microsoft's first foray into blogging, I see two development undercurrents: An admirabe effort to bring blogging to the masses and to not bring those blogs to the masses but their community of friends and family most likely to read the content.
MSN Spaces is very full featured – users can add posts from cell phones as well as via email. Drag-and-drop layout design and pre-fabbed templates make creating a custom look and feel a cinch. A couple of other innovations:
+ Permissions are linked into MSN Messenger and MSN Address books. Only .NET Passport email addresses are accepted.
+ Integration with MSN Photos and MSN Music to upload photo albums and playlists easily. Moreover, users can click on a playlist and sample or purchase the song or album.
+ Put Spaces content elsewhere on MSN. MSN Hotmail and Messenger have a new feature called Contact Cards that will take the latest post or photo added to your Space and displays it next to your contact information. When you update your Space, your name changes – it’s like indicating the “presence” of new content, rather than your actual presence.
Notice a trend here? There’s heavy integration of Spaces into the whole MSN communication suite of email and instant messaging. I think this is very smart, especially as MSN hopes to attract a new audience group to blogging. The next wave of bloggers is going to look very different from today’s blogger – their motivation will be on sharing experiences rather than having a place for their ideas and opinions.
The feedback isn't all rosy. In followup posts Joe Wilcox states that the poor performance (our team has been working overtime on resolving various issues here and the site is a lot better than when he wrote the post), its preference for for users browsing with Internet Explorer and the hubbub around content moderation will keep MSN Spaces from becoming a challenge to existing players in this area. He isn't the only one to complain about the IE specific features of MSN Spaces, Adam Bosworth also complained about this on his MSN Space (Yes, Adam Bosworth of Google has an MSN Space).
We're listening to all this feedback and would like to thank everyone who's acknowledging our innovations in this area.