There have been a couple of comparisons between last week's announcement's of Windows Live and Microsoft's Hailstorm initiative in the press. Since I gave a talk last week on the differences between our platform thinking then versus now, a few folks have suggested I blog about it so here goes.

My favorite article comparing Windows Live with Hailstorm was Mary Jo Foley's article Microsoft 'Live': 'Hailstorm' Take 2 where she wrote

Microsoft is mixing together rebranded MSN and bCentral properties, and seasoning with a dash of Hailstorm. Read all about that, and more, in Microsoft's 'Live' talking points.
...
We definitely were thinking Windows Live sounded a lot like the ill-fated Hailstorm, when we heard Microsoft's explanation of Windows Live. In case you need a refresher, Hailstorm, which Microsoft announced back in 2001, was designed to be is "a set of user-centric XML Web services that enable developers to build solutions that work seamlessly with one another over the Internet to deliver a more personalized and consistent user experience." Microsoft tabled Hailstorm shortly after its introduction, as a result of customer and partner concerns over privacy and security of the data.

As someone who's been working on our platform story in one way or the other from back when it was the 'MSN platform story' this is something I'm quite aware of. The big difference between Windows Live and Hailstorm is the difference between empowerment and exploitation.

Four years ago, while interning at Microsoft, I saw a demo about Hailstorm in which a user visiting an online CD retailer was showed an ad for a concert they'd be interested in based on their music preferences in Hailstorm. The thinking here was that it would be win-win because (i) all the user's data is entered and stored in one place which is convenient for the user (ii) the CD retailer can access the user's preferences from Hailstorm and cut a deal with the concert ticket provider to show their ads based on user preferences and (iii) the concert ticket provider gets their ads shown in a very relevant context.

The big problem with Hailstorm is that it assumed that potential Hailstorm partners such as retailers and other businesses would give up their customer data to Microsoft. As expected most of them told Microsoft to take a long walk of a short pier.

Fast forward a couple of years later. Microsoft now has some of the most popular services on the Web; the world's most popular IM client, the world's most popular web-based email service, one of the world's most popular blogging services, and a host of other services that are utilized by hundreds of millions of people every day.

At this point it is clear that a number of these services can be exposed as platforms to enable our customers do more. Users deserve to have more options for creating content in their personal space, which is why we are exposing the MetaWeblog API for Spaces. People should be able to design and decide what components are shown on their personalized home page which is why we have Microsoft Gadgets. You should be able to annotate maps with information of interest to yourself and your friends which is why we have the Virtual Earth API. You should be able to subscribe to headlines about news of interest to you in your application of choice, which is why we provide RSS feeds for news search results in MSN Search.

It's about empowering our users.

We are currently thinking about how we transition from http://msdn.microsoft.com/msn and I'd love to see what developers would like to see from us. What APIs would you like us to open up? Also what would you like to see on the site? Is there a problem with the fact that there are a number of different MSN Windows Live developer sites like http://www.start.com/developer, http://msdn.microsoft.com/msn, and http://www.viavirtualearth.com or is having a number of specific product sites/communities better? We're building this platform for you so we'd definitely love to hear your comments.

Holla at me


 

Thursday, November 10, 2005 11:42:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I would love it if you guys would open up a Windows Live Messenger API, so I could integrate a Windows Live Messenger client in my applications. I know the RTC API exists, but that's only for Live Communications Server. I would love to integrate with the normal messenger service, without having to resort to libraries based on reverse engineering of the protocol.

As for the developer sites. I think it's very good to have seperate communities for each technology. It's much easier to get lost on a gigantic site with a lot of information about everything, than on a site specifically desgined for just one technology. Just make sure there is a site on MSDN with links to the specific sites, so people can easily find the sites they're looking for from the number one entry portal for Microsoft developers.
Thursday, November 10, 2005 1:56:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Superb article! Actually earlier I was also confused as to how much difference would there be betweeen Hailstorm and Live services, though I had an idea that the reason because of which Hailstorm failed (why would vendors trust Microsoft) and how is Live services going to be different in that sence. But certainly I couldn't have easily understood the conceptual difference, unless for your blog post :-)
Friday, November 11, 2005 1:37:45 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I don't think it matters whether all the documentation is on one site or spread around.

But it would be damn nice if I could bookmark or write a blog linking to a piece of documentation, and have some confidence that the link will still work in six months.
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