launched a blogging tool that ties in with its home media technology plays. Called MSN Spaces, the beta is part of an update to MSN’s suite of communication services.
The free, hosted MSN Spaces service is Microsoft’s first consumer foray into providing a blogging platform. Spaces will enable MSN members to maintain a blog and control it with some sophisticated features that are not typical of all blogging services.
A permission system allows the blogger to set access levels (public, private or just MSN Messenger Contacts) to the blog, which will also extend beyond just text to include pictures as well as music. The service also allows bloggers to share their music playlists with visitors to their blog as well offering them the opportunity to purchase the music through MSN’s new Music service.
Microsoft is latching on to the hot Moblogging trend with the new service, which lets bloggers post updates remotely via a cell/mobile phone.
MSN also introduced a beta version of MSN Messenger 7.0, updates to MSN Hotmail, and deeper integration between the applications. For example, MSN Spaces can automatically notify online contacts when a person’s Space has been updated via MSN Messenger or Hotmail. Creators can open their Spaces to the public, limit access to IM contacts, or keep them.
One concept is that connecting these various services will make it easier for users to share media and communicate in a variety of ways. Another is that Microsoft’s strategy in practically every market it enters is to integrate and extend the feature of one product or service into other offered services.
In addition to distribution via MSN’s communication tools and the Web, the service also supports RSS. Microsoft plans to launch its own RSS reader, My MSN.
The MSN Spaces service, which right now is free in 26 different global markets, is slated for some business model tweaks. “We will work to monetize these services in three primary methods: ad sales, transactional revenue and subscription revenue add-ons,” a Microsoft spokesperson told internetnews.com. “We’re exploring ad sales possibilities here. MSN Spaces includes 4 text links at the top of the Space. We are currently using these links to test house ads so we can learn from the beta and potentially explore advertiser options here in the future.”
Microsoft’s move into consumer blogging follows its other challenges to Yahoo and Google for dominance in the hearts and minds of Web users via e-mail, search and now blogging. In early November Microsoft announced its new search beta and has been an active participant in the escalation of free Webmail space that was ignited by Google’s Gmail service.
Blogging as a technology and social movement has gained momentum this year, though it’s still unclear the exact number of blogs that are created and then abandoned after only a few short months. According to Technorati, blogs have grown eight-fold since the half-million it counted in June of 2003. And while Pew Internet & American Life survey has counted one new blog roughly every 6 seconds, it is unclear whether those 15,000 or so blogs are eventually abandoned.
But the consensus on the stats is clear about blogging’s wildfire popularity. Just yesterday, dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster dubbed Blog its #1 word of the year based on the number of online lookups.
Susan Kuchinskas contributed to this story