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MSN Hops on New Video Soapbox

Microsoft refreshed its video platform today with a new beta version of MSN Video. The updated site reflects the design, layout and features of Soapbox, Microsoft's answer to Google's user-generated video site YouTube.com.

The new version is compatible across multiple browsers, including Firefox and Mozilla using Flash, a Microsoft spokesperson told internetnews.com. Additionally, with the new interface, viewers can search and add videos to their playlists, tag videos, and open their windows to full screen without interrupting the video.

The spokesperson said the update follows last week's relaunch of MSN Entertainment, which includes MSN TV, Movies, and Music.

Microsoft first released Soapbox in September. The product has many of the same features found on other video-sharing sites. Users can rate, comment on, and tag each others videos. They can browse categories, find related videos, subscribe to RSS feeds, and share their favorites.

At the time of Soapbox's launch, YouTube led the user-generated video market, with greater market share than MySpace, Google, and Yahoo, according to Hitwise market research.

Not much has changed. According to Nielsen//NetRatings, YouTube.com saw 45 million visitors in March 2006 to MSN Video's 11.5 million. The average time spent on YouTube was over 40 minutes compared to MSN Video's five minutes.

In related online video news, British firm Autonomy Corp. today announced it would demerge with video search engine Blinkx and offer it on the London Stock Exchange's AIM Market.

Blinkx technology relies on speech recognition to identify content rather than simply text and XML tagging, as is the case with most other video-search solutions. It also recognizes text within video, such as the name on the back of a uniform jersey.

Some in the industry have called video search a "billion dollar opportunity," because of the chance it offers to pair brand advertisers with narrowly targeted searchers.

Google's purchase of YouTube.com for $1.65 billion last year is indicative of the direction of the market.

And shares in Blinkx plc are expected to start trading as a separate company in May 2007, according to a statement. After the demerger and any associated offering, Autonomy is expected to hold approximately 10 percent of Blinkx's ordinary shares.