Some updates are going live on Windows Live Spaces tonight. Spaces is now available in 8 extra markets, there are options for birthday notifications for your contacts (Facebook does this well), a new ability to re-order lists (like moving something lower in your top ten), and new features on the Spaces home page. Also, new users who sign up for Windows Live IDs will automatically have a Windows Live Space reserved for them in their name, ready for them if they decide to use it.
Also, Windows Live Expo, their classified ads site, added the ability for anonymous users to contact sellers, widening potential buyers beyond those with Live IDs. They’ve also improved the search engine, returning search results that are more accurate and load 2-3 times as fast.
LiveSide reports some new features for Windows Live Expo, as well as the addition of the shiny blue Vapor flair design atop the page. The new features include, besides the usual bug fixes and performance improvements:
- Public availability for the UK and China
Upgrades to the Communities features (formerly “email groups”, which let you deal with people at your school or workplace)
- Streamlined account sign-up
- The maps now use the latest Virtual Earth control, including the great 3D maps
Enhanced image preview, letting you see more detailed photos faster
Facebook integration, letting you share listings with Facebook friends. There is even a “Share this on Facebook” button on listing pages
Windows Live Expo, Microsoft’s community classifieds system, has added some new features. Now, you can pay for items via PayPal for secure transactions, either from PayPal debit accounts or through credit cards. Sellers can also specify the cost and type of shipping. Expo also now integrates job listings from Career Builder, featured ads by AdMission that highlight your listing for an added fee, a preview of national search results below local results, and an Expo tab for Windows Live Messenger.
Read more at the Live Expo team blog and LiveSide. You can also take a tour.
Microsoft is officially releasing Windows Live, having Windows Live Search replace MSN Search (exactly 22 months after it originally released MSN Search). Live Search and Live.com leave beta, and Live Search becomes the new destination for users searching from the MSN homepage. The changeover hasn’t completed, but it is underway right now.
The millions of users who use MSN are going to eventually run a search. When they do, they will find something different enough from what they are used to on Google that they might decide to take a look around. They might discover Live Search’s neverending search results. They might discover Live’s Image Search, with its expanding thumbnails, resizing slider, scratchpad and great preview mode (and a really cool new “Related People” mode that is damn near perfect!). They might discover Windows Live Local, with its great map dragging, easy pushpins, saved and shareable locations, overhead and 3/4 views.
They might discover a whole bunch of other great Live services, like Spaces, QnA and Expo, or try the new Live Mail. They might download and install some great software, like Live Mail Desktop, Live Messenger, or OneCare. Or they might not.
It’s a lot to hope for, certainly, and it would be great for Microsoft if it all worked out. If there’s a chance to have a slam dunk, this is it. Windows Live is a ton of great technology, at exactly the right time, while none of its rivals are taking as many chances. MSN has a lot of users who don’t know what Web 2.0 is, and they might discover AJAX for the very first time when they hit that search box. If they love it, it will be Microsoft that introduces them to Web 2.0, and Windows Live Search that replaces their Google.
Will it pull off? We’ll see if the market share starts inching up by the end of the year.
Image search results pages also includes a slider to let the user determine the layout of the page and a pulldown to limit to specific sizes of images. Each image also includes a link to a â€œscratchpadâ€ where you can store images. The AJAX drag and drop to the scratchpad is nice.
Searching for image of people, for example (Warren Buffet) includes a a list of related names. Btw, Ask.com has been using Zoom technology with their image database since the beginning of the year. Youâ€™ll not only find related names of people but also ideas to narrow or expand your search. Warren Buffet example at Ask.com. Zoom is also available with web search at Ask while Live Search only offers related searches.
Search page changes
First, the page is much faster. The search box is wider and we’re including messaging for key new features. You’ll also notice that the Jewel (the drop down in the upper left hand corner) is now available on this page.
Direct URLs to personalized page and search
This has been a popular request by many users. Now you can type beta.search.live.com (soon search.live.com) and go directly to the search page. Similiarly you can type my.live.com and home.live.com and go directly to the personalized page.
live.com is now accessible including screen reader mode which can be enabled via the ‘Options’ dialog.
The release also is part of the Redmond software company’s push to offer a number of free, Web-based services under its new “Live” brand name. The approach has been aimed at helping the company establish a fresh, separate Internet brand for those services, but it also has confused some users more familiar with the company’s traditional MSN Internet branding strategy.
“In general, I don’t think a lot of consumers outside of computer enthusiasts … are aware of Windows Live or know what it is,” said Matt Rosoff, independent researcher with Directions on Microsoft.
Microsoft plans to use Live Search on its MSN portal, and it also planning to promote Live Search later this fall. But Rosoff said the company needs to do more — whether it’s a massive marketing push or some sort of broader tie-in with other products — to tell uses what Live is, and persuade them to switch from Google and others.
Mike Torres notes that they’ve added back all the MSN Search smart answers, so none of the cool features are lost in the changeover. Also:
One thing that no one is talking about (at least not yet) is the pretty significant update to the mobile search experience. There’s a new user interface, support for instant answers like Encarta and finance, some new scopes like news and maps, lots of changes to local search (bigger maps!) and more. You can check it out from your phone at http://mobile.live.com/search. The team is blogging here: http://itsallmobile.spaces.live.com.
Live is Microsoftâ€™s key play for the future and new company leader Ray Ozzie has been a vocal advocate of Live in particular and web based software as a service in general. Live.com places new emphasis on customization, RSS, blogs, video and other areas of emerging interest. Start.com was to fulfill a similar function, but when Start lost steam last fall the team posted to their blog calling for engineers interested in working on Live.com.
The company says that MSN attracts 465 million unique users worldwide per month. Itâ€™s long been believed that the MSN brand was being fazed out and would be replaced by Live.com as the intended home page and search engine for Microsoftâ€™s huge user base. You could say that Live.com has a much more contemporary feel to it than MSN – or you could say that itâ€™s a weak attempt to mimic Googleâ€™s sparse interface that ends up looking unfriendly and awkward. Todayâ€™s announcement also underlines the strangeness that Microsoftâ€™s new YouTube competitor is being launched under the MSN brand.
I just came back from the Microsoft Belux headquarters in Diegem where we had a talk and discuss session with evangelist Phil Holden – Director Windows Live, and Kevin Briody – Product Manager Community (MSN Marketing). The session was very interesting and of course it was all about Windows Live and its features. Phil did a demo of almost every feature I knew of. He talked about the integration of the Microsoft Gadgets in the Live.com personal homepage, about the progress in the Live Search and where it’s heading to and about Live Mail and its features. He also talked about Live Messenger and about how the contacts would be integrated into Live Mail and about Microsoft’s first steps into social networking with the Australian test run of the Spaces Friends network. Yeah, the session was quite stuffed.
Live Search is definitely not cruising at top speed yet, that was the first thing Phil admitted. It’s only logical, because they’re still rolling out new features and tuning the existing tool to the needs of the users. However, it’s going to be big and the way it looks now it has a lot of good things about it. I like the concept of infinite search, where you no longer need to browse the search results per page, but all the results are projected in one page and you can just scroll down. The extension of the search with a ‘local site search’ included in the results is also a big progress I think. It sounds really obvious that sometimes the excerpt of a result shows there’s something interesting, but you’d like to find out more from that specific domain only. I’m also pretty keen on the feeds search, where you can click on a feed and see previews of the posts in it. I haven’t seen image integration there, but I think that’s only a matter of time. One remark is that apparently Live Search dropped the RSS feed per search query, but Phil said he’d look into it and agreed that functionality should be integrated as it is now on the ‘regular’ MSN Search. In the Live Search, there hasn’t been any experimenting with decent video or audio search and for now it’s not on the todo list. It would be a great expansion though. The image search is quite advanced and very smooth. It shows a lot of details of the image, but one way or the other it’d be great if you could define your query and limit it to small, medium or large images. The fact the size in mb is shown netx to the dimensions is pretty cool and it’s also pretty handy you can zoom the images if you select them.
The Microsoft Gadgets part is pretty nifty, although a lot of the content actually leads to a new page opening as it does for example with the Google Search gadget and the GMail gadget. Kris is right when he says that it looks like an upgraded link. People should expect such a gadget to add true functionality, which means: previews of GMail and loading Google SERPs into the page you’re looking at right now. Not in a new page. Other gadgets come in pretty handy if you really need them, like stock quotes. It’s truly necessary that there is some sort of general policy about the gadgets. Some sort of certification or seal of approval so to speak. Otherwise you might end up with gadgets in the general archive that have adult or inappropriate content, which would definitely not be a good thing. One must also be aware that a lot of custom gadgets are depending on the services of a third party, so if you don’t stick to the official and ‘tested and approved’ gadgets, it might be that at one time or the other, some gadgets might become corrupted. Normally that shouldn’t happen though.
Windows Live Messenger is going to be extended to SkypeOut-alike feature. Phil had a Philips Phone with him (see picture below) that had a base receiver on USB, which is plugged into your PC, and a portable unit that can be used anywhere around the house (wireless, of course). The phone would connect to your Messenger client and displays all your contacts and their online/offline status. You can access the Windows Live Contacts and make VoIP calls if the user you want to call to is overseas for example, or you can make an ‘analog’ call if you prefer to do so. The phone should be available on the market at the end of May. The Windows Live Call service should have competitive charges compared to SkypeOut. One thing to note is that home users who share accounts on their PC should create a family account with shared contacts, otherwise users might have to log on and off to be able to connect to their personal Messenger profile. Another cool feature is the P2P shared folders, where you can drag and drop files into folders that are synchronized with the user you share them with. Sharing with groups is not yet supported.
Windows Live Mail has the looks of Outlook, which makes it a lot better and user friendly than the hotmail interface, although the feedback on the beta revealed that a lot of people want to hold on to the ‘old’ Hotmail interface, which I totally don’t understand. In this new Mail client, your contacts would be shared, which makes it easier to maintain a contact list. Phil showed a Live.com interface where he grouped his mail accounts, including GMail and the accounts from his provider (Quest) and said you could add any POP3 account to the list. He’s not aware of a maximum number of accounts that can be added. Nobody ever got to the saturation point of that. Presumably nobody has more than 10 or 15 accounts to monitor at once, but it’s possible and that’s cool.
In Australia, Microsoft is experimenting with a social network feature, based on the popular MSN Spaces. Here you can add friends and browse them, add notes to those friends and manage their contact data, wich is linked to the Windows Live Contacts which are also connected to the Windows Live Messenger. A funny side is you can browse the friends of your friends’ friends unlimited. Since it’s only being deployed in a rather limited form, there hasn’t been set any restrictions to the browsable generations. You can keep clicking for ever This will probably not be available if the service is scaled, but it’s fun for now.
The Windows Live Local services will be extended too, and the streetside view of Virutal Earth which had its testcase in Seattle will also be extended to other cities soon. There hasn’t been a decent advertising strategy developed yet, but one might suspect the integration of Windows Live Local data to be added in the future.
Phil also talked about Windows Live Expo, which recently aired. I asked if they were thinking about adding a payment module to it, the way they have now with Messenger (you can buy SMS tokens, winks and other things) but it hasn’t been developed yet. Expo looks cool, but without payment possibilities, there’s not much added value. They’re working on a feature which would allow users to rate sellers and their items, the way Amazon en eBay do. Adding credibility to the members of a platform is definitely a good thing. It’s one of the main reasons Amazon survived the dotcom bubble and eBay grew so fast: added consumer value. It’s the glue that keeps things together. Participating users will return, trusted users will sell more and people will step into the formula with more belief in its functionality.
I think this sort of conlcudes my review of the keynote. After the session, David Boschmans stole the show with his special Vista edition for the Toshiba Tablet PC. Awesome tool and it looks incredibly handy and robust. Added to the wishlist. More pictures in the Bubbleshare gallery.
Thanks to Kris Hoet, Tom Mertens and David Boschmans for fixing this. I had a great time, really.
If you want to stay up to date with the developments of Windows Live, here are some blogs to tune in to:
Windows Live product teams:
Interesting blogs about Windows Live:
MS Team blogs:
Phil Holden & Kevin Briody
Today’s pictures (I haven’t had the time to remove the red eyes every here and there and I’m not a professional photographer so sorry if it doesn’t look that smooth)
Download all pictures as a .zip file to edit them yourself or just to keep’m.
Cross-posted on Marketing Thoughts.
LiveSide reports that Windows Live Product Search is in development. Much like Froogle, WLPS would have price comparisons, and add Windows Live staples like detail sliders to hide/show metadata. Rumors are they would also include buying guides and links to articles and blog posts. If Microsoft’s truly smart, they’ll include Expo listings.
They’ve also recently written about Windows Live Academic Search, Windows Live Local being named best online mapping by PC World, Live Clipboard developments, sending Live Local results to your mobile device. LiveSide rocks, tis true.
MSN Spaces has added a Windows Live Expo module, so people can list their Expo items on their Space. You can post your free listing on Expo and then have it displayed automatically, with a photo and an excerpt, to visitors to your blog.
The Spaces team has been busy lately. Their biggest addition was the RSS feed module last month. It allows you to create a sidebar module containing content from any RSS feed, letting you include Flickr photos, sports scores, your other blogs, del.icio.us links, Netflix rentals, and your Amazon wishlist.
Meanwhile, Expo is running an interesting contest. If you attend one of four colleges (University of Wisconsin – Madison, University of Washington, Ohio State University, University of Texas) then “International Collector Edward G. Ramos III” is looking to buy items from you. Ramos III is looking for “obscure” yet valueless items, for which he’ll pay top dollar (in other words, if you list something stupid, you might win a prize).
He’s looking for:
- 40 piggy banks at $20 apiece
- 20 Smiley Faced maracas at $30 apiece
- 20 hardhats for $30 apiece
- 10 stuffed huskies or stuffed Bucky Badgers at $100 apiece
- 10 “Death to Smoochy” DVDs for $100 apiece
- 2 Atari Donkey Kong game cartridges for $500 each
- 2 Ice Cube or Death Cab For Cutie concert tickets for $500 each
- A Homer Simpson Chia Pet for $1000
- An Easy-Bake Oven for $1000
What a cool idea! My only regret is that it is limited to college students, and specific college students, which means I can’t get the Donkey Kong bounty (I’ve held onto that game long enough, and $500 is plenty!). Edward G. Ramos III has his own MSN Space, even.
Expo seems to be taking off. There are over 3000 listings in the New York area, and they aren’t promoting and aren’t really accepting many New York people, so that’s significant. I hope more people try it out, since Windows Live has taken a unique and smart approach to the online community marketplace.
If you haven’t given it a shot, check it out.
LiveSide points to the MSN Spaces homepage, which now says:
Windows Live Spaces – the future of MSN Spaces
In the summer of 2006, we will unveil a more powerful version of MSN Spaces which will be called Windows Live Spaces! Stay tuned!
They also have an interview with Mike Torres, lead PM for MSN Spaces. In it he says:
- There are 35 million Spaces and 100 million unique users (both bloggers and commenters and readers)
- They aren’t trying to be the best blogging service, but to be a platform for all of your stuff that you want to share, for your digital self
- Favorite feature: removing /members from the URL. Not big to most people, but shows he has an attention to detail.
- Spaces Search is getting better, a lot of work going into making that a major feature
- Many new features are done based on what users are asking for
- Live Contacts is going to be a way to subscribe to a person’s information accross all services, getting that person’s contact info in Spaces, Live Mail, your mobile device, and that contact info would be updated whenever it changed
- All the Xbox Live integration was the idea and work of an intern named Joe. I hope they hired him!
- They don’t want to just rebrand as Windows Live Spaces. They want it to be a big deal, the first Live version, and something that users really like. Integration is going to be a big part. He says to expect something in the middle to the end of the year.
- Spaces was designed that they could innovate very quickly
- When asked about whether you’d be able to put Microsoft Gadgets on your blog, Mike says “I think it’s pretty obvious the Gadget investment is a pretty big one for Microsoft, and I can kind of just leave it at that”. Don’t be surprised to see Gadgets that can be dropped right into your Spaces page. They’re just worried about the security model (can’t exactly put your Hotmail inbox on a public site).
With 100 million people regularly using Spaces, when it moves over to Windows Live, that is going to be a huge deal. Many Spaces users don’t overlap with the early adopters currently using Windows Live, so Microsoft has a chance to get a lot of people to use Windows Live services.
The key for them should be twofold. First, to provide a release of Windows Live Spaces that reflects the entire platform, with integration into as many of the services as is feasible, and second, to ensure that when Spaces makes the jump, the most important features of Windows Live for Spaces users, like Live Messenger, Live Mail, Expo and CQA are all at the very least in public beta, so Spaces users can jump right in and get tied to the rest of the platform.
If managed well, Microsoft can get a lot of people to adopt Windows Live over Google or Yahoo by making a nice splash. While their software division continues to have troubles, the online units are doing a great job, and could be a big success story this year.
Windows Live Expo (previously code-named Fremont) has opened for business, and since BetaNews is talking about, that means I don’t need to worry about my NDA (much) anymore on this one. Expo is now available to select companies and schools:
- University of Washington
- Washington Mutual
- Microsoft Alumni
- University of Washington Alumni
If you are in one of those groups, I encourage you to sign up immediately and try it out. I’ve been in the beta for several weeks (more on that later), and the service shows great promise, and only gets better the more people sign up.
See, everyone calls Expo a “Craigslist killer” or ripoff, but what makes it different (and keeps you from signing up right now) is that Expo pays big attention to what groups you belong to. You sign up with a domain email address, like your work email, or your school email (and you can sign up with multiple if applicable) and Expo lets you deal only with those people.
Its like Craigslist, buts its more like Facebook.
Expo is all about buying/selling/trading/finding the items/people/events in your community. That “community” is determined by what you search for. It can be people near you (like Craigslist, although you get to be a lot more specific than that), people you work with, people you go to or went to school with, or people in organizations you belong to. This means that, unlike Craigslist, you can develop a level of trust and familiarity with your personal marketplace, a huge advantage over the “anything goes” at Craigslist that your grandmother will never go for.
Expo divides everything up into categories of items, services, people and events (I’m not getting too specific until I get confirmation that the NDA is off). You search automatically by a global setting, one for where (city + distance radius) and one for who (email domain group). You have your setting in there always, as your default, you can change it instantly with a single click, and you can fine-tune it as needed.
Your searches use this global setting, as does the home page. When you click on a category, you only see the listings in the category that fit your global setting (making it really a search itself). This means that you have one front page, and everyone sees the same page, unlike Craigslist where you have to click through an unweildly list of all the cities in the program.
I’m starting to think I’ve said too much, so I’ll leave it there until I get official word. I can promise that if there are any further press reports, I’ll give more information for you guys than they do, as much as I can push out. Check out my previous articles on this, one of which has plenty of other good details.
I’ll leave you with some quotes from the article that shed more light on features:
… Users would be able to modify their listings with a WYSIWYG editor and post images as well.
… The service will integrate with other Windows Live services, including Live Local, allowing a user to narrow down searches and find items within a certain distance. Through Live Messenger, users would be able to discover new listings through “gleams” next to their buddies names. Spaces integration is also planned, with the capability to post one’s own listings on their Space through an optional module.
To facilitate communication between buyer and seller, an option is provided that allows buyers to instant message the seller through MSN and Windows Live Messenger.
In the initial beta the seller would receive a dialog box asking whether or not they would accept messages; in the future an IM bot will handle the conversation allowing for complete anonymity and also identifying the message is regarding a Live Expo listing.
… The most popular items were tickets to concerts, and the most popular categories electronics and computers.
… For example, the user could limit listings to just those in his address book or buddy list, to people within the same e-mail domain, or within a certain radius of his or her location.
“We’re more local than Craiglist,” he chided.
Unlike the classified listing site, Live Local is more based on whom the user wants to buy from rather than where the item is located, Wiseman explaned.
“We have social networking available today,” he said, pointing to the company’s Messenger product. “By tapping into this social network we can create a more trustworthy marketplace.”
(Found on Findory Â©)
I’ve seen some great stuff at Search Champs, and heard some even better ones (for instance did you know that ________ rumor is completely accurate, and that _________ happened because ________ said ________?) Problem is, so much of it is under NDA. Personally, I’m grateful for the opportunity to see these products and do what little I can to help out, but I still wish I could share more of it. Well, late today, we finally had a session we could blog about. Well, mostly, since every so often a speaker paused and said, “Oh, this isn’t bloggable”.
At the top, we saw a demo of what Windows Local has, basically a familiarization with the service, then go off NDA (arghh). I already know all about Live Local, but I did learn a few things about Local I hadn’t noticed, all of them useful. The NDA stuff? Well, it looks good. As did most of the NDA stuff. I didn’t get demos of any crap, is what I’m saying.
After that, Live.com Program Manager demo’d Live.com’s current and some future feature. He described Live as a sort of desktop for the web, and that they are bringing in user experience expectations to the web, like right-click context menus and drag and drop.
The Live.com gadgets were shown off, and we get full confirmation that the Windows Sidebar will run the Live.com gadgets, and that Windows XP will get that functionality, likely before Windows Vista ships. We’re informed that you will be able to drag Live.com Gadgets off Live.com and put them on your desktop instead, which makes the whole system a lot more useful. I could see people loading up their Live.com page with every interesting Gadget, dragging Gadgets back and forth from the desktop depending on whether they needed them there more often. Lets see OS X / Yahoo do that.
One thing that looked great was a TV recommendations Gadget, which will launch eventually. It talks to your Media Center PC, takes what you watch, shows you what you’ve watched, lets you rate them, and recommends other shows for you to watch/record. If you agree with it or just see a show you want to record, you can tell the Gadget and it’ll schedule a recording.
Take a look:
There’s another Live.com feature launching tomorrow. Its a minor one, but nice. Basically, when you have an RSS feed, if the feed has pictures in it, it shows a rotating view of the photos within the feed box. Looks nice.
Now, we see MSN AdCenter, and we’re shows how you target ads to an audience. You can choose regions or specific cities to target, specidifc days of the week, times of day, target men or women more than the other or certain age groups more than others. AdCenter pulls data from Passport or Hotmail to determine what type of person you are, and then Microsoft “uses third party sources to verify the accuracy” of the data. Hmm… That’s something I want to hear more about.
You can enter a keyword and see how often bleach is searched for (and other searches with bleach in it), and what demographic group was searching for it. You can then see queries searched for around your target search and learn even more about your target audience, so you know what other keywords to buy related to the searchers you are trying to reach. Like, if you’re targeting bleach, and people searching for bleach also tend to search right before it for a similar keyword, it’ll expose that for you so you can better target the ad campaign.
Next, we look at Windows Live Expo (code-named Fremont), which I got to see earlier in an NDA session. Expo is designed, like Craigslist, to sell stuff to people in your area, or, unlike Craigslist, to people you know. If you are part of a company or group with an email domain, you can verify that through your email and become part of that group on Expo. This means you can maintain a level of trust, selling to coworkers or people at your school. You can browse without signing in, but can’t contact or sell items without signing into your Passport.
There are categories for Cars, Events, Housing, Jobs, People (including “Activities”), Pets and Services. You can filter all results by a location radius and by group (people you know, everyone). You can, using an AJAX popin, change your search radius or group quickly. Every page has the option of an AJAX popin to show you where things are, including search results. You can send double-blind messages (neither side sees an email address), or through MSN Messenger (not blind, but otional).
One cool thing: When typing in a search, you see suggested categories automatically to the right of the search box. That means, that if you type in “Honda”, it suggests cars and bikes, and clicking on either runs the search with the category, making things more specific and faster. Using AJAX in subtle ways to improve search queries while you are typing the search query is a great way to make search better.
Basic listings are free, ad-supported, although if someone wants to use the tech for their own service, there are ways to negotiate that.
There are other things I want to touch on, like the large amounts of discussion on the DOJ stuff and just my experiences at Microsoft’s campus, but I’ll blog that when I get back. If you want more, I’ll be bookmarking every single other Search Champers posts, so watch the del.icio.us posts.
Microsoft has revealed the name of its online marketplace, previously code-named Fremont: Windows Live Expo.
Microsoft already has its Google Base-like online marketplace in development, called Fremont and behind firewall at Live.com, Gary Price reports. Knowing Microsoft, it won’t have half the buzz Base has, but when it launches it’ll have many of the features Google doesn’t, like a payment system. I for one can’t wait to see it.