May 27, 2005
@ 03:52 PM

Of the major online service providers, Yahoo! has always been one of my favorites. I may use the Google search engine to find stuff online or MSN Messenger to chat with friends and coworkers, but I utilize more services from Yahoo! than any Web company. In fact, I'm the main reason that all the Windows machines in the computer labs of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech had the Yahoo! Toolbar installed on them when I was in college.

Now that I work at MSN, I get to work on stuff that makes me as excited about software as I used to be in college when I first marvelled at the utility of Yahoo!'s toolbar. Even better is seeing a lot of the stuff I work on either directly or indirectly, influence one of my favorite online services.

In a recent blog post entitled Not Nerdvana, But Maybe The Suburbs, Stowe Boyd writes

I was out in California on the 12th, getting briefed by the Yahoo Messenger folks about the newest release of their instant messaging suite
....
Note As I sketched in a recent post (Nerdvana: A Better Tool For Communication (I Can Dream, Can't I?)), I would really like a rich client on my desktop that put the buddy list firmly at the center of the universe, and all other stuff -- email, blog posts, to-dos, appointments, geographical location, whatever -- hanging off the buddy list as a collection of attributes. Because people and social relatedness is the center of the universe, not documents, calendars, email, etc.
...
Note the 'contact card' in the screenshow above, where various elements of Jessica's digital relationship to me are displayed. We see various icons, representing ways I can contact her. But better, much better, we see the music she is playing, and new profile info and blog entry.

The contact card is something we pioneered in the most recent release of MSN Messenger. It's illuminating to compare Stowe's screenshot of the Yahoo! Messenger contact card with a screenshot I took last year of the MSN Messenger 7.0 beta contact card.  I totally agree with Stowe Boyd that software should help people better communicate and interact with each other in social contexts. This is something that lots of folks at MSN are passionate about and it is edifying to see our competition follow our lead in this area.

This morning I saw an article in Infoworld titled The battle for the blogosphere which had some interesting comments about competition between Yahoo! and MSN in the blogging arena. Some of the excerpts from the article are

Introduced in beta form just last December, MSN Spaces now hosts over 10 million blogs, an eye-popping adoption rate that has blown past internal Microsoft expectations. "MSN Spaces is the fastest growing service MSN has ever introduced," said Brooke Richardson, lead product manager at MSN communication services.

The significant thing for the blogging market is that Microsoft is doing it its way, designing MSN Spaces to have a central text-blogging core but complemented by and integrated with a suite of MSN online services, such as instant messaging, e-mail, music playlist posting, and photo sharing. Microsoft also built into the service access control features to let users determine who can view their blogs, although they can make their blogs totally open if they want. MSN Spaces will also notify users when blogs from friends have been updated.

In March, Yahoo introduced in limited beta a service called Yahoo 360 whose concept and design are similar to MSN Spaces. This service comes as no surprise, because Yahoo, like Microsoft's MSN, has a wide variety of online services with which to surround its blogging service. As two leading Web portals, MSN and Yahoo have an amount and variety of online services under one roof that few others can rival, and blogging is something they're weaving into their overall fabric.

Later on the in the article, the author takes issue with the lack of customizability of MSN Spaces in comparison to other online services such as Google's Blogger and even mentions Robert Scoble's post from last year, MSN Spaces isn't the blogging service for me. We've gotten a lot of feedback about customizability and we definitely will be looking into how we can offer more flexibility. 

From my perspective, the competition between Yahoo! and MSN around who can build a better social computing experience for end users is a lot more exciting than the competition around search engines that have garnered all the press. This is definitely a fun time to be working at MSN.


 

Saturday, May 28, 2005 3:18:41 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
What about SixApart, though? Are you not supposed to mention them at all?
James
Thursday, June 9, 2005 10:00:26 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Speaking of "illuminating comparisions" where have I see the "Nudge" feature before? And winks? And backgrounds/packs? And personal messages?

Oh yeah, those were all feature from Yahoo! Messenger than MSN ripped off. (Buzz, Audibles, IMEnvironments, and custom status messages for those keeping track of such things).
A Voice of Reason
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