Over the past year or so, I’ve been part of the team working on building the next version of the social news feed on Windows Live. Yesterday, the next iteration of this feature was made broadly available on http://home.live.com and http://profile.live.com. As I look back at the work we’ve done there are a number of things I love about the philosophy behind what we’ve built and the actual features we’ve implemented.

The above screenshot shows the header for Messenger Social feed on the Windows Live home page and captures a number of it’s key concepts.

Highlights from your Favorite People

One of the key problems we want to address with this release is the conflicting feelings of information overload from getting a flood of minutiae on a daily basis from people you’d barely consider acquaintances and the feeling of not seeing enough stuff from the people you actually care about because they are being drowned out by other less important people. The way we’ve approached this problem is described on the Messenger Preview site and excerpted below

Because most people today use a variety of social networks and content sharing sites, with different sets of friends and acquaintances dispersed throughout these disparate networks, it can be challenging — and exhausting — to visit different websites and create different accounts just to keep abreast of your friends’ updates. But it isn’t just about bringing all that data together. What’s really valuable is helping you filter through the clutter and get to those updates you really care about — the ones from those people who you communicate with most frequently. There are a lot of intelligent algorithms and machine learning that can help in this, but we’ve found one of the best ways is to simply ask people. So, Windows Live Messenger will come right to the source — YOU — and ask you to specify your favorites:

The Highlights filter shows the most interesting recent content from your social network and strives to ensure you are kept up to date with updates from your favorites even if they aren’t posting a mile a minute like some of your more active social networking friends.


The screenshot above captures what this means in practice. Since Omar is one of my favorites, his updates show up ahead of updates from Mint.com even though his are several hours older than those from the Mint fan page. We learned from experience that although a number of people find the Highlights filter to be a valuable way to cut through the clutter and view the most interesting updates from their social network, there are also times when we have time to kill and don’t mind swimming in the full stream. For those times, we also have a Recent filter which provides the classic reverse chronological view of a stream of updates from your social network.

People-centric not Service-centric

The fundamental idea behind social software is that it enables people to connect with other people. When we first shipped the feed in Wave 3, it was a key part of our design philosophy that we would bring together updates from multiple services into a single experience that emphasized your friends not the services where the data was coming from. One consequence of this is that updates from multiple services are shown in a single stream as shown in the screenshot from the previous section. We don’t provide tabs for multiple services because at the end of the day, what’s important to me is seeing what my friends said today not what my Windows Live friends said versus what my Facebook friends said. Instead our filters enable users to decide how they want to see updates from all of their friends as opposed to making service-centric distinctions.

Another nice touch is that once I’ve connected a service such as Facebook to Windows Live (more on that below) when I see an update from a friend in my feed, not only do I have the options of communicating with him or viewing his data on Windows Live but also communicating with him via that service as well. 

and when I click “Send a message (Facebook)” above, it actually takes me to Facebook to send Omar a message via their messaging feature.

Bi-Directional Connections to Where your Friends are

In our previous release, we had a feature called Web Activities which enabled users to share the activities they performed on other sites such as Facebook, Flickr, MySpace and others with their friends on Windows Live. A consistent bit of feedback we got was that people wanted our integration with other sites to be much deeper. They wanted to be able see what their friends where doing regardless of what network they were on and interact with their content. They also wanted to be able to share content with their friends regardless of what network they were on as well. In short, our customers wanted interoperability, not just data portability. With our current release we have obliged in spades…

When you first interact with the Messenger Social experience we ask you to connect your favorite services to Windows Live so you can see what your friends are up to all over the Web and share what you’re doing on other sites with your friends on Windows Live. If you got the prompt above when visiting http://home.live.com and clicked through to Facebook, you’d see the following options to create bidirectional data flows between Facebook and Windows Live.

As I mentioned before, this isn’t about “portability” and asking your friends to leave Facebook for Windows Live. Instead it is about allowing both sites to interoperate in a way that enables Windows Live users to stay in touch with their friends without either set of users having to switch services. Of course, Facebook isn’t the only social networking service we interoperate with in this manner as you can tell from the following screen shot


With these connections made, I not only get to see what my friends are doing across MySpace and Facebook from within Windows Live but can also broadcast my thoughts to them from within Windows Live as well.

Shortly after our features were made available yesterday I created the following status update

which caused that update to be shared to both my Messenger friends and my Facebook friends (see the handy iconography in the bottom right). You can see the results from both sites below

On Facebook On Windows Live

There’s more good stuff in the release as stuff rolls out across Windows Live and I’ll be writing more about what we’ve built in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading.

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