I'm pleased to announced the beta release of a new kind of web component: the Windows Live Contacts Gadget!
What's it for?
What's the benefit for end users?Convenience and confidence. If you're shopping for flowers for Grandma online, it's much easier to tell the contacts gadget to give Grandma's postal address to the florist site than to type in her address each time you visit the site. 240 million Hotmail and Messenger users have already amassed some 14 billion contact records. Wouldn't it be nice if you could use your contacts for things beyond just Hotmail and Messenger?
What's the benefit for web sites?
Higher completion of orders (by making address entry easier), low setup cost, and new app scenarios. Wouldn't it be nice if your web apps could tap into those 14 billion contact records? (With end user approval, of course)
If that were easy to do, then everybody would be doing it, right? In truth, it's a royal pain in the neck, and a little scary on the security front. As a result, the web today consists of a forest of isolated silos. Users can move freely between sites, but they can't take their data with them. Each site has its own login system, another username/password for the user to keep track of, another collection of user preferences to configure, and another island of the user's data that can only be used with that site.
The Windows Live Contacts Gadget is a step in the direction of user data accompanying users as they wander freely between web sites. The data is within easy reach of the user, but not available to a web site until the user selects exactly which data to submit to the web site.
How does it do it?
How do I use it?
Check out the two sample apps on the Windows Live Contacts Gadget intro page on dev.live.com, as well as the Building a Mashup with the Windows Live Contacts Gadget and Virtual Earth article just posted to MSDN. I'll be posting more examples and walkthroughs this weekend.
It's a Beta
Keep in mind that this contacts gadget is a beta release. It has a few rough spots that we're still working out, but shouldn't prevent you from trying it out or even brainstorming what you can do with it. We plan to push out updates early and often as we fine tune the hoop-jumping that goes on behind the scenes.
The API is stable and not expected to change for release. (There's only one function in the API - how hard could it be?) File names and URLs should be stable during beta, but all the URLs will change for the 1.0 production release.
I'm a little pressed for time at the moment, so I'll wrap up this first post now and do a few more posts this weekend when (hopefully) the deployment drama has subsided a bit.