Microsoft today officially opened Windows Live Spaces an online community site for creating and sharing messages blogs music and photos among friends. It represents an upgrade of the existing MSN Spaces offering from the software giant that needs to keep pace with the likes of MySpace and Facebook in helping people connect in social networking settings.
The new service links the members of contact lists on Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Mail among other communications services with measures to protect users from unauthorized access to personal pages. Those who are already on one another's Windows Live Messenger lists can initiate IM conversations from Windows Live Spaces.
Microsoft is making available hundreds of "gadgets" or specialized miniapplications created by developers from the Live Spaces community and content partners to personalize their pages with an array of video and still images blog entries or links to favorite Web destinations.
New privacy tools provide control over permission settings to specify who can contact you through Live Spaces see your profile information or look at the contents of your site. The permissions and communications preferences are displayed alongside profile information and can be readily updated.
To address growing concerns over safeguarding children from unauthorized or potentially harmful online contacts the default setting in a Live Spaces profile for those under age allows access only to those who are on the user's Live Messenger contact list.
As the launch season continues additional Windows Live services continue to be rolled out and by the end of the summer Microsoft expects to ship almost half of the beta services the company has been testing.
Microsoft also announced other enhancements to the Live platform including a new toolbar that helps users find save and act on information across the Internet. The Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner checks for and removes viruses and trashes unused files on the hard drive to help the PC run more smoothly.
Also coming soon to customers in the U.S. is the Windows Live QnA beta a search offering that lets you ask and/or answer questions from an online community on a broad array of topics ranging from business to sports to technology.
"This is another effort by Microsoft to get MSN users to migrate to the Windows Live platform" said Yankee Group analyst Jennifer Simpson. "IM users particularly are now familiar with interacting while doing their gaming and blogging for example and Live Spaces takes that a step further."
What's particularly compelling about the new offering she said is that people can now extend their contact lists to the Spaces service and connect with each other safely. "Given the emphasis on protecting who can access personal information posted on social networking sites including the DOPA legislation limiting access to such sites in schools and libraries Microsoft is taking the right approach."
Microsoft with some million MSN Spaces users has carved its niche in the social networking arena as it competes with sites created by Yahoo Google other Web portals. "Combining communications and content provision is a critical component of Web ." Simpson said. "Interactivity that allows people to generate and share original content is changing the look and feel of Web sites."