Microsoft Clears Space for Bloggers

Microsoft today handed aspiring bloggers a simple, free tool to get started, releasing a public beta version of MSN Spaces.

The tool is integrated into Microsoft’s other Internet services, which the company has also upgraded. The latest version of its instant messaging service, MSN Messenger 7.0, is out in beta, and upgrades to its Hotmail e-mail service have been made.

“It’s definitely a response to a perceived competitive threat,” analyst Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Media told TechNewsWorld. “Clearly there was a need to do something like this to stay competitive.”

America Online has offered AOL Journals since 2003, while Google has Blogger.com.

Landscape Unshaken

While the service is a nice idea, Gartenberg said, it’s unlikely to shake anything up.

“Very few people are engaged in writing Web logs,” he said. “You have to wonder how much this is going to bring to the table in the end. More serious bloggers are probably going to use tools that are more sophisticated.”

MSN Spaces incorporates standard blogging software features such as text entry and design tools, with the ability to share photos and lists of favorite songs from MSN Music. Blogs can be updated through the Web, e-mail or mobile phone. MSN Spaces bloggers can choose to make their sites public or private or restrict access to only those on their MSN Messenger contacts list.

New Entry Ready

Bloggers can also choose to send automatic notification via MSN Messenger or Hotmail when they write a new entry.

MSN Spaces also supports Rich Site Summary (RSS) news feeds, which bloggers can create and publish, a feature Gartenberg said may draw more users than blogging itself.

“Web logs as an activity require diligence and commitment and a burning desire to say something and tell it to the world. That’s why it’s just not a mainstream activity,” he said.

“Most people don’t create content, they consume content, and we have a word for them: consumers. Far more people want to read others’ content than create their own.”

Initially, the four text links at the top of the pages will be populated with house ads, but Microsoft said it is considering selling the spots.

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