MSN Video is now the second most popular video brand on the internet, following a 25.3% traffic surge in October. MSN jumped to 35 million users, giving it 9% market share, good enough for #2 in an area heavily dominated by Google’s YouTube. Yahoo is half a percentage point behind Google. If Microsoft can sustain big gains for a few more months, they could pull away to become the indisputed top at the “Best of the Rest”.
Microsoft is in a consolidating mood, rolling MSN Soapbox, its user-uploaded video site, into MSN Video, which makes complete sense, since the two have been using identical (and excellent) interfaces for months. Besides the new combined branding, the latest release of Soapbox includes user notification when videos have been flagged and removed for copyright violations, much faster encoding times (so your videos go live sooner after you upload them), and a new mini-Showcase, where editors show off the best videos on the front page.
Jamie Thomson blogged about a video he uploaded to Soapbox, only to see it marked as a breach of copyright and locked against viewing or embedding. The video in question was a screencast titled “Consuming a web service in SQL Server Integration Services 2008″, which contains crucial moments from the season finales of Lost, 24, and a very special Blossom, or, maybe, just maybe, it contained nothing but video of software being used on a computer screen.
You can see the video on YouTube here:
Obviously, the video wasn’t a copyright infringer, so why did it get flagged? Is there a bug in the system, triggering massive amounts of false positives and pissing off users? Nope, nothing so dramatic. I’ve been having my own troubleshooting issue with the Soapbox team, and was just told that indeed Jamie’s video was unfortunately the victim of “an outage that caused peopleâ€™s videos to be marked as copyright”.
They’ve fixed the problem, and that means Jamie’s video is back on Soapbox, keeping the entire computing world riveted to their monitors:
MSN Soapbox is now accepting new registrations, about two and a half months after it stopped accepting them due to copyright concerns. Microsoft stopped letting new people into the site, deciding it first needed an effective means of keeping a huge amount of copyright violations off the site before they wound up joining Google in a billion dollar lawsuit.
The latest update to Soapbox utilizes CopySense tech from Audible Magic to automatically filter newly uploaded material for copyright violations, giving them a fighting chance of detecting violations before they become a legal problem. CopySense is just the first step, with more tools to be released as well, according to the Soapbox team blog.
Now, maybe the Soapbox team can figure out why every video I’ve uploaded there recently has ended in failure. I’ve been doing some serious videoblogging lately, and I’m down with the S-box, but for some reason it chokes under the same circumstances YouTube and Google Video have failed. Their loss. Or maybe their gain. My lighting and sound are really bad…
Robert McLaws posted the first of several commercials promoting the new Windows Live Hotmail.
The first one, called Date, is a little more risque than you expect from Microsoft, especially the half-second moan:
Jeez. I like them pushing the envelope, but I’m a little shocked.
On the other hand, Hot Male is hilarious:
Groceries is pretty good, but once again it includes a moment that probably goes a little further than you want it too:
And finally, Arrows, again, kinda worries me:
So, am I overreacting? Absolutely! Microsoft is being edgy, and good for them! I want them to worry me, just a little. I want ads that say, “The new Hotmail is bold, edgy, exciting, and has great features”, and these absolutely do. Just don’t air them before 9.
MSN Soapbox was gifted with a cool new interface today. It does a whole bunch of great things, including dynamically resizing the page and scaling as you change the size of your browser. They’ve finally added the playlist functionality I was hoping for when the playlist button appeared in the old version, and supposedly you can embed playlists, but I can’t figure how the hell to do it.
Other new features/changes:
- Player indicates how much of the video has been downloaded
- The new embeddable player has a better look, and has a smaller and cleaner interface
- Every video you watch is added to the playlist, which you can share (and supposedly embed). One problem: There is no button to delete an item from a playlist, short of URL hacking.
- The fullscreen experience has been improved
- You can sort the video gallery now, by date added, rating, number of views, and click in the easy menu bar to browse videos by most recent, most viewed, most commented, top favorites, top rated, top tags, and among 15 categories. Many pages have a neat tag cloud at the top.
- Despite the changes, you can still browse all of Soapbox while watching a video, and with the new playlist functions, you can add videos while browsing to watch one after the other.
MSN Video has also been updated with the same interface and features, including the embeddable player for sharing.
Check out the new player:
CBS has announced it will be distributing free and paid video content with a variety of partners, including MSN, Joost, and AOL, like it currently does on Google’s YouTube and iTunes. Some of the content will be ad-supported, others will be the sales of TV episodes.
Some of the content will be free to consumers and supported by advertising, although premium fee services, such as the purchase of episodes from iTunes Music Store, will remain in place. The expanded initiative, called the CBS Interactive Audience Network, was announced Thursday.
Users will be able to view new episodes and reruns of shows including “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”; “CSI: Miami”; “CSI: NY”; the Showtime series “Fat Actress,” starring Kirstie Alley; and CBS and Showtime sporting events, the online video site Joost said in a separate statement. CBS did not specify whether the shows will be available for download or streaming.
The other distributors named in the agreement are CNet Networks Inc., Comcast Corp., Bebo Inc., Brightcove Inc., Netvibes, Sling Media Inc. and Veoh Networks Inc. Akamai Technologies Inc. will provide the content delivery system, CBS said.
There are no specifics on the MSN side of the deal, whether it will be for clips on MSN Soapbox or MSN Video, or sales of episodes, or even ad-supported free full episodes.
Microsoft has closed new registrations for MSN Soapbox, barely a month after the service had graduated to an open public beta. Current Soapbox users will not be affected, but for the next two months, nobody new is getting in. The reason: piracy and the $1 billion lawsuit Viacom has leveled against Google/YouTube. Microsoft plans to keep the site closed until it has a more effective means of preventing copyrighted content from appearing on the service.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the decision is also designed to allow Soapbox to relaunch along with the NBC/Fox YouTube competitor site, since Soapbox will be a partner with that.
Turns out my wife is subscribed to some sort of Windows Live newsletter. I like the voting on Soapbox videos, so I figured I’d reproduce it here. Wait a minute, why the hell is MSN Soapbox being promoted in a Windows Live newsletter? Could it be…
Greg Sandoval reports that last month Microsoft met with executives from video sharing site Revver, looking to see if an aquisition of Revver would make sense. Microsoft is strongly producing its own MSN Soapbox service, which has been very well received, but Revver has a system for inserting and tracking advertisements within videos.
Microsoft decided not to pick up Revver, but it does show they are looking into bringing in some advertising technology from the outside to help out Soapbox, possibly because they haven’t developed, or are having trouble with their own system. Soapbox has some excellent technology, but providing a way for uploaders to make some cash could be a nice hook, especially if they tap the advertiser base of MSN AdCenter. Also, Revver’s userbase, while nowhere near YouTube’, would provide a running start to Soapbox as it tries to compete.
Microsoft has put out new themes for you to customize your Windows Live Space, 14 in all, including five LeBron James themes. The themes are, by category:
Â· Street Graffiti
Music and entertainment:
Â· Music Machine
Â· Cat Tails
Â· Garden Lawn
Â· Moon set
Â· Light Stream
Â· Wallpaper Stripes
Â· LeBron Book
Â· LeBron Graffiti
Â· LeBron Hoops
Â· King James
Â· Slick LeBron
Also, Live.com is adding some social features, letting you put together a cool Live.com page and then share it with the world. Currently, there are ten of these Collections, eight of which are celebrity and system Collections provided by Microsoft (like a Hilarry Duff Collection or Valentine’s Day Collection), but users will be able to submit their own and see how popular they become. Seems like a good opportunity for someone to create dashboards on every subject imaginable for everyone to enjoy.
Also, CNBC did an interview with Janina Gavankar, the actress who plays Ms. Dewey, the Windows Live human search engine. Funny and informative stuff.
Also (I swear, last “also”!), MSN Soapbox is now a public beta, meaning everyone can sign up. Yes, it doesn’t have the community YouTube enjoys, but Soapbox videos have a higher quality than those of any major free video service, and the interface is a revolution, so it’s completely worth signing up for.
The first Gadget is for embedding videos in you Live Space. While you can already embed such videos, this Gadget lets you place them in the Sidebar or anywhere you can place a Gadget. Plus, it works on Live.com, so you can use it to put a video anywhere on your Live.com homepage. It works with basically any embed code (MSN Soapbox, YouTube, Google Video, IFilm, Yahoo Video), so you have a lot of flexibility.
Next up is a Flickr Gadget which lets you input a Flickr RSS feed or a set of keywords to see a Flickr slideshow. I can’t figure out how to use this one in a blog, since it requires configuration (and as yet, the embed hack doesn’t allow for that).
Finally, they’ve released an improved HTML sandbox Gadget, the one that lets you insert raw HTML (and usually works real well). Since lots of other platforms have ways of embedding their Gadgets externally, you can use this Gadget to put, say, a Google Gadget on your Microsoft blog page. Good deal.
Also, the Soapbox guys have launched Messenger integration. You can now click a “Share” tab under a Soapbox video to IM the video, and it will launch a special activity video in Messenger where you watch an enlarged video, which chatting at the same time.
ALSO, you can now send instant messages to Santa by adding “email@example.com” to you Windows Live Messenger contact list. I’m guessing its a bot, but feel free to use it to make your kids happy the day before Christmas. On the other hand, don’t, because Santa might promise some gifts “he” can’t afford.
(this one via Download Squad)
There’s a new Gadget you can select which lets you view videos from MSN Soapbox on Live.com or on Live Spaces. You can choose from playlists of popular or recent videos, the most commented on videos, or the top editorial, ratings, or favorited picks.
Because I’m such a nice guy, here’s the Gadget, embedded right in this very blog:
If you don’t know how to do that, you haven’t been reading every day, have you?
Robin, my marketing-blogger/colleague over at marketingblog.eu sent me a file about the first video-project they did for Datanews. They (VNU) taped the keynote Bill Gates gave yesterday in Brussels at the Microsoft Business Innovation Event and in it he runs through a brief history of the most important IT developments of the past 10 years and he shares his vision on how software can be used as an instrument to simplofy business solutions. I’d normally have posted this on Inside Microsoft, but since Vizaweb’s still down, I’ll post it here.
Boy, the MSN Soapbox folks have been busy. They’re showing off a mobile version of Soapbox, one that lets you both upload and view videos from a Windows Mobile device. The client looks great, and being able to view viral videos on your phone is a great feature the competition doesn’t offer at this level. Mobile Soapbox could be the killer app.
Meanwhile, they’ve also developed a new feature for their embeddable player: fuzzy players (my term, not theirs). Basically, rather than embed a single video, you can embed players in which the content changes automatically based on your criteria, possible due to the playlist feature. For example, you can use this code to create a player that shows all videos from a certain search result:
< embed src="http://soapbox.msn.com/flash/soapbox1_1.swf" quality="high" width="412" height="362" wmode="transparent" name="msn_soapbox" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="http://macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer" flashvars="c=s&s=car" >< /embed >
That player shows all videos for South Park. You can easilly see why such a player would be useful, and the embed code will work just fine even if you aren’t in the Soapbox beta. Feel free to start using that on MySpace pages. There is also code for all of a specific user’s videos, a user’s favorite videos (letting you play producer and syndicate your favs to your friends), and this player, which shows all the latest uploaded videos:
God, these guys are innovating like crazy. They are picking apart the features that YouTube and Google don’t have, and building them all in at a breakneck pace. Be smart, and just release the damn thing to the public, and let the users be happy.
I just got my invite to the MSN Soapbox beta, and others are reporting the same.
Some first impressions:
- It doesn’t run in Opera.
- The interface is really smart. You have two panes (besides the sidebar). In the left pane, you browse videos, and whatever you click, plays in the right pane. This allows you to find more stuff to watch, all while watching what you already found.
- Soapbox sacrifices no features, including code to embed videos, number of views, star ratings, comments, a full-on tag cloud, advanced details and similar videos.
- Besides the standard link and embed code, you also get a “link with image” option, letting you post thumbnails of videos for places that won’t let you embed.
- Video is of a higher quality than YouTube or Google Video.
- The video controls are streamlined, sleek, and out of your way. In full-screen mode, they don’t get bigger (how stupid is it when YouTube does that!).
- There’s copyrighted content, but less than elsewhere. Also, the non-copyrighted stuff is of a higher quality than YouTube’s “emo” whiny teenagers. This is probably more representative of a closed beta than anything else.
- The profile features look real solid, tracking uploads, tags, favorites, and comments.
- There is so much mix of Flash and AJAX, all of it seemless and fast, moving everything along. One of the best Web 2.0 interfaces I have ever seen.
Here’s a few uploaded videos (anyone want to tell me what hack is running that wallpaper?):
And here’s a thumbnail link:
Microsoft announced a deal with Blinkx to provide video search to some of its sites at MSN and Live.com. Under the deal, Blinkx would be paid a licensing fee based on the number of searches, rather than a revenue sharing agreement.
On Monday, Blinkx will announce potentially one of its biggest deals to date, with Microsoft, which has agreed to use Blinkx technology to power the video search on some parts of its MSN Internet sites and Live.com.
“We will be the single biggest video search engine on the Web,” Suranga Chandratillake, Blinkx co-founder and chief technology officer, said in an interview.
Blinkx already powers video search on sites ranging from AOL to ITN, Lycos and Times Online. It also indexes video from the likes of BCC, Fox, MTV, Sky News, Reuters and YouTube and makes and makes videos on those sites searchable on Blinkx or partner sites.
Paul Thurrott must be in the MSN Soapbox closed beta, since he embedded three videos in one of his pages. Lets take a look.
That’s the video embeded. The controls at the bottom, while thicker than YouTube, is relatively clean. It contains a play button, forward and back buttons, a progress indicator, time display, volume slider, mute button, the video’s title, an info button, and a playlist button. The word Soapbox is also clickable.
The most interesting thing I find here is the playlist functionality, as indicated by the playlist button and back/forward button. Other services don’t let you do multiple videos in an embed, forcing you to use something like VidMirror, but apparently Soapbox handles playlists and successive videos in a single box.
The coolest thing has to be the info button. Hit it and a pane slides up (we can assume the playlist button acts in a similar fashion), with info on the video, including the author, upload date, number of video views, comments, a description, and links to other videos.
This is what the embed code looks like:
< embed src="http://soapbox.msn.com/flash/msn_embedded_player.swf" quality="high" width="412" height="362" name="msn_warhol" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="http://macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer" flashvars="strXMLSource=http://soapbox.msn.com/embed.aspx?vid=505cd974-3975-4fd4-bd45-edf2e0c8ce61" >< /embed >
Also: The buttons reveal their functionality if you roll over them. The video quality seems no better than YouTube or Google Video’s. There is no button to run the video in full screen. Compared with Google Video or YouTube, they seem to be doing a great job with features and design, but might want to find a way to reduce the size of the controls themselves.
Here’s a screenshot, to compare against future changes:
Compare to YouTube (top), Google Video (middle), and MySpace (bottom):
Notice that, besides MySpace, the others do not have a completely unnecessary frame around the vide. That should be the first thing Microsoft drops, before redesigning anything else. A full-screen button would be nice, too.
Ratings, for now, out of five, in both looks and features:
YouTube: 4.0 (looks) 2.5 (features)
Google Video: 2.5 (looks) 2.5 (features)
MySpace Video: 2.0 (looks) 3.0 (features)
MSN Soapbox: 3.5 (looks) 4.0 (features)
Pretty good start.
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