I'm a day late to blog this but it looks like we announced releases in both the consumer and business instant messaging space yesterday.

From the InfoWorld article Microsoft uses Ajax to Web-enable corporate IM we learn

Microsoft Corp. Tuesday released a Web-based version of its corporate instant-messaging software that gives users access when they are working remotely or from non-Windows computers. Gurdeep Singh Pall, a Microsoft corporate vice president, unveiled the product, Office Communicator Web Access, in a keynote at the Interop New York 2005 show.

Office Communicator Web Access includes support for Ajax (Asynchronous Javascript and XML), a programming technology that enables developers to build applications that can be altered dynamically on a browser page without changing what happens on the server. The product provides a Web front end to Microsoft's Office Communicator desktop application, and is available to customers of Live Communications Server 2005 for immediate download at www.microsoft.com/rtc, said Paul Duffy, a senior product manager at Microsoft.

I'm confused as to why InfoWorld feels the need to mention AJAX in their story. It's not like when other products are announced they trumpet the fact that they are built using C++ or ASP.NET. The AJAX hype is definitely getting ridiculous.

From the blog post Windows Live Messenger Beta - Released from the Windows Live Messenger team's blog we learn

 Windows Live Messenger Beta is now available for use and testing to a limited set of users in the US, UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Brazil, Korea, Netherlands, and Spain. More and more of you will be invited to join over the coming weeks/months.

They also have a blog post on the Official Feature List for Windows Live Messenger. Unfortunately, none of the features I'm working on are in this release. I can't wait until the features I'm working on finally get out to the public. :)


Categories: Social Software | Windows Live

December 14, 2005
@ 05:44 PM

An artist's transition from gangsta rapper to pop star is always a weird one for fans. For example, there was a joke on this week's episode of the Boondocks about how Ice Cube "the guy who makes family movies" used to be a hard core gangsta rapper. I've personally been amused by how the subject matter of their songs changes as they realize that their fan base is dominated by prepubescent and teenage suburbanites as opposed to hip hop heads from the 'hood. 

On the album Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse Jay-Z has a song called Poppin' Tags which is about going to the mall and shopping. The subject matter of the song is the kind of thing you'd expect from Hilary Duff not Jigga. 

However 50 Cent has Jay-Z beat when it comes to songs targetted at the teenage mallrat crowd. On the soundtrack to his movie Get Rich or Die Tryin' 50 has two songs that belie his status as a gangsta rapper. There's the poorly crooned Window Shopper about how 50 Cent gets to go to the mall to buy stuff you can't afford. Then there's Best Friend where he begs to be some girl's "best friend" if the other guy in her life is "just a friend". 

But it gets worse.

Mike Torres sent me a link to a post entitled 50 Cent Caught Red Handed which is excerpted below

Remember that story about 50 Cent performing at some little girl's bat mitzvah? Yeah, you wish it didn't really happen. Nothing says hardcore gangster rapper like a teenie-bop white girl dancing to your music with two hundred of her closest white teenie-bop friends.

More pictures from the $500,000 bat mitzvah after the jump.

UPDATE: You can see all the photos from the bat mitzvah here.

Keep it real, Fiddy.


Categories: Music

December 14, 2005
@ 02:21 AM

One of the interesting things I've noticed due to the discussion about Yahoo!'s purchase of del.icio.us is how differently success is judged in the post-dotbomb technology startup scene. Specifically, I'll focus on two posts that gave me cause to pause this afternoon.

In his post Learning from mistakes Anil Dash writes

Best post I've seen today: Ari Paparo talks about the differences between del.icio.us and Blink. Blink was Ari's startup during the bubble, which raised $13 million (!) to build an online bookmarking service, but didn't take off with users.

The only way any of us gets to be a successful entrepreneur is by learning from others' mistakes, yet a lot of business culture focuses around never admitting that errors are ever made. So kudos to Ari, not just for being brave enough to be self-critical, but for helping a lot of new aspiring entrepreneurs to succeed

The only quibble I'd have is that Ari presents del.icio.us as having succeeded already. Josh and his team at del.icio.us have built a great app, but for as popular as they are with geeks, the hard work is to bring the concept of social bookmarking (or, if you prefer, a shared recollection tool) to a larger audience.

In his post Getting it right Ari Paporo writes

Congratulations to Josh on the del.ico.us acquisition. Yahoo will make a great partner for the bookmarking service.

Now a little part of me is cringing as I write this. Having founded a bookmarking company in 1999 with pretty much the exact same vision as the new crop of services, I’ve got to feel, well, a little stupid. (or angry, or depressed, or whatever). Maybe writing about it will make me feel better and maybe even help me make a point or two about product development.

When we founded Blink.com (no link love, it’s a crappy search site now) the founders and I imagined a self-reinforcing product cycle:

1. Consumers needed portable bookmarks so they wouldn’t lose them, would be able to access them from any computer, and could share them with friends or coworkers;

2. As part of the process of bookmarking sites and organizing them into "folders" users would be indicating a measure of quality and connectedness among the URLs;

3. Profit!

OK, step 3 was a little more complicated. But the essence was that we would use the personal-backup product attributes to create a public search engine and "discovery engine" (I believe the marketing folks wanted to use that phrase!) based on user bookmarks.

This really shouldn’t sound too different from what del.ico.us was able to do, and we had something like $13 million to play with to make it happen. Not to mention that there were others with the same idea. Remember Backflip? So (besides the money),why did we fail and del.ico.us and the other Web 2.0 companies succeed?

I don’t think it was that we were "too early" or that we got killed when the bubble burst. I believe it all came down to product design, and to some very slight differences in approach.

To start, we launched Blink with a bevy of marketing dollars and a message very much focused on the individual storage benefits. We were very successful at attracting users (at its height Blink has 1.5 million members, del.ico.us currently has 300,000) and getting them to import their bookmarks into our system.

What I find interesting about this pair of posts is the thought that a company that had 5 times the user base of del.icio.us could be considered a failure while del.icio.us is not. This makes me wonder what defines success here...That the VCs made a profit? I assume that must have been the case with the del.icio.us sale while it clearly was not with the original Blink.com service. Perhaps it's that the founders end up as millionaires? What ever it is, it definitely doesn't seem to be about users.

I tend to agree with Anil Dash, del.icio.us isn't yet a success except for being successful at making the founders and VCs a good return on their investment. If a service can grow to be 5 times as large and still be considered a failure then I think it is safe to say that calling del.icio.us a success is at best premature.

My question for all you budding entrepreneurs out there, what are your definitions of success and failure?


Categories: Social Software

For the developers out there who'd like to ask questions about or report bugs in our implementation the MetaWeblog API for MSN Spaces  there is now a place to turn.

The MSN Spaces Development forum is where to go to ask questions about the MetaWeblog API for MSN Spaces, file bug reports and discuss with members of our developer community or the Spaces team about what you'd like to see us open up next.

There is even an RSS feed so I can keep up to date with recent postings using my favorite RSS reader. If you are interested in our API story, you should subscribe.


Categories: Windows Live

December 13, 2005
@ 06:27 PM

Nicholas Carr has a post entitled Sun and the data center meltdown which has an insightful excerpt on the kind of problems that sites facing scalability issues have to deal with. He writes

a recent paper on electricity use by Google engineer Luiz André Barroso. Barroso's paper, which appeared in September in ACM Queue, is well worth reading. He shows that while Google has been able to achieve great leaps in server performance with each successive generation of technology it's rolled out, it has not been able to achieve similar gains in energy effiiciency: "Performance per watt has remained roughly flat over time, even after significant efforts to design for power efficiency. In other words, every gain in performance has been accompanied by a proportional inflation in overall platform power consumption. The result of these trends is that power-related costs are an increasing fraction of the TCO [total cost of ownership]."

He then gets more specific:

A typical low-end x86-based server today can cost about $3,000 and consume an average of 200 watts (peak consumption can reach over 300 watts). Typical power delivery inefficiencies and cooling overheads will easily double that energy budget. If we assume a base energy cost of nine cents per kilowatt hour and a four-year server lifecycle, the energy costs of that system today would already be more than 40 percent of the hardware costs.

And it gets worse. If performance per watt is to remain constant over the next few years, power costs could easily overtake hardware costs, possibly by a large margin ... For the most aggressive scenario (50 percent annual growth rates), power costs by the end of the decade would dwarf server prices (note that this doesn’t account for the likely increases in energy costs over the next few years). In this extreme situation, in which keeping machines powered up costs significantly more than the machines themselves, one could envision bizarre business models in which the power company will provide you with free hardware if you sign a long-term power contract.

The possibility of computer equipment power consumption spiraling out of control could have serious consequences for the overall affordability of computing, not to mention the overall health of the planet.

If energy consumption is a problem for Google, arguably the most sophisticated builder of data centers in the world today, imagine where that leaves your run-of-the-mill company. As businesses move to more densely packed computing infrastructures, incorporating racks of energy-gobbling blade servers, cooling and electricity become ever greater problems. In fact, many companies' existing data centers simply can't deliver the kind of power and cooling necessary to run modern systems. That's led to a shortage of quality data-center space, which in turn (I hear) is pushing up per-square-foot prices for hosting facilities dramatically. It costs so much to retrofit old space to the required specifications, or to build new space to those specs, that this shortage is not going to go away any time soon.

When you are providing a service that becomes popular enough to attract millions of users, your worries begin to multiply. Instead of just worrying about efficient code and optimal database schemas, things like power consumption of your servers and data center capacity become just as important.

Building online services requires more than the ability to sling code and hack databases. Lots of stuff gets written about the more trivial aspects of building an online service (e.g. switch to sexy, new platforms like Ruby on Rails) but the real hard work is often unheralded and rarely discussed.


From the press release Microsoft and MCI Join to Deliver Consumer PC-to-Phone Calling we learn

REDMOND, Wash., and ASHBURN, Va. — Dec. 12, 2005 — Microsoft Corp. and MCI Inc. (NASDAQ: MCIP) today announced a global, multiyear partnership to provide software and services that enable customers to place calls from a personal computer to virtually any phone. The solution, MCI Web Calling for Windows Live™ Call, will be available through Windows Live Messenger, the upcoming successor to MSN® Messenger, which has more than 185 million active accounts around the world. The solution combines Windows Live software, advanced voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) capabilities and the strengths of MCI’s expansive global network to give consumers an easy-to-use, convenient and cost-effective way to stay connected.

MCI and Microsoft are testing the service as part of a Windows Live Messenger limited beta with subscriptions initially available in the United States, and expect to jointly deliver the PC-to-phone calling capabilities to France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom in the coming weeks. Once subscribed to the service, customers can place calls to and from more than 220 countries with rates starting at $.023 per minute to the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Western Europe during the beta testing period. Upon sign-up, MCI Web Calling customers will receive up to one hour of free calls. Final pricing will be determined when the product officially launches in 2006.

Another sweet Windows Live offering already in beta. You can find a screenshot of the upcoming functionality in the blog post Windows Live Call & MCI (Part II). I'll definitely be interested in trying out this feature once it ships. I used to PC-to-SMS feature all the time to send text messages to my girlfriend especially when I'm out of town. Extending this to phone calls would be great for calling family overseas.


Categories: Windows Live

I've been surprised to see several weblogs report that MSN Spaces 27 million blogs with over 7.6 million active bloggers. What I found surprising wasn't the inaccurate data on the number of weblogs or active users that we have. The surprise that these accurate sounding numbers were 'interpreted' from an off hand comment I made in my blog. The source of this information seems to be this post in the Blog Herald entitled MSN Spaces now has 27 million blogs and over 7.6 million active users: Microsoft which states

Microsoft’s blogging service has grown from an estimaited 18 million blogs in October to 27 million blogs and at least 7.6 million active bloggers, according to Dare Obasanjo from Microsoft in a post discussing server issues.

The service still remains in third position amongst blog providers, with Xanga and MySpace both believed to be hosting 40 million blogs each.

(note: calculations based on this line: "I never expected [Spaces] that we'd grow to be three times as big [as Live Journal] and three times as active within a year.")

I've been pretty surprised at the number of blogs I've seen quoting these numbers as facts when they are based on such fuzzy techniques. For the record we don't have 27 million blogs, the number is higher. As for our number of active users, that depends on your definition of active. Using one definition, we are over three times as active as LiveJournal. That's what I meant. 


Categories: Ramblings

I bumped into Irwin Dolobowsky a few weeks ago and he told me that he now worked on Windows Live Favorites. Irwin used to work on the XML team at Microsoft with me and in fact he took over http://msdn.microsoft.com/xml when I left the team last year. I'm glad to see that I'll be working closely with a couple more familiar faces.

Yesterday he let me know that they've started a team blog at http://spaces.msn.com/members/livefavorites. He's already started addressing some of the feedback from their early adopters such as his post on the Number of Favorites Limit. Check it out.


Categories: Windows Live

Our implementation of the MetaWeblog API for MSN Spaces is now publicly available. You can use the API to create, edit and delete blog posts on your space. The following blogging applications either currently work with our implementation of the MetaWeblog API or will in their next release

  1. W.Bloggar
  2. Blogjet
  3. Ecto
  4. Zoundry
  5. Qumana
  6. Onfolio
  7. Elicit
  8. PostXING
  9. Pocket Blogger
  10. Diarist - PocketPC

I have also provided a pair of tutorials for managing your MSN Spaces blog using desktop blogging tools, one on using Blogjet to manage your MSN Spaces blog and the other on using W.Bloggar to manage your blog on MSN Spaces.

The following information is for developers who would like to build applications that programmatically interact with MSN Spaces.

Supported Blogger and MetaWeblog API methods:

  • metaWeblog.newPost (blogid, username, password, struct, publish) returns string
  • metaWeblog.editPost (postid, username, password, struct, publish) returns boolean
  • metaWeblog.getPost (postid, username, password) returns struct
  • metaWeblog.getCategories (blogid, username, password) returns array of structs
  • metaWeblog.getRecentPosts (blogid, username, password, numberOfPosts) returns array of structs
  • blogger.deletePost(appkey, postid, username, password, publish) returns boolean
  • blogger.getUsersBlogs(appkey, username, password) returns array of structs
  • blogger.getUserInfo(appkey, username, password) returns struct

Unsupported MetaWeblog API methods:

  • metaWeblog.newMediaObject (blogid, username, password, struct) returns struct

NOTE: The appKey parameter used by the deletePost, getUsersBlogs and getUserInfo method is ignored. MSN Spaces will not require an application key to utilize its APIs.

Expect to see more information about the MetaWeblog API for MSN Spaces on http://msdn.microsoft.com/msn shortly. We also will be providing a forum to discuss the APIs for MSN Spaces at http://forums.microsoft.com/msdn in the next few days. If you have questions about using the API or suggestions about other APIs you would like to see, either respond to this blog entry or send me mail at dareo AT microsoft DOT com. 


Categories: Windows Live

The following is a tutorial on posting to your blog on MSN Spaces using the W.Bloggar desktop blogging application.

  1. Create a Space on http://spaces.msn.com if you don't have one

  2. Go to 'Edit Your Space->Settings->Email Publishing'

  3. Turn on Email Publishing (screenshot below)

  4. Choose a secret word (screenshot below)

  5. Download and install the latest version of W.Bloggar from http://www.wbloggar.com

  6. Go to File->Add Account

  7. On the next screen, answer "Yes, I want to add it as a new account" when asked whether you already have a blog

  8. Select 'Custom' as your blog tool and choose an alias for this account (screenshot below)

  9. Select your Custom Blog Tool Settings as shown (screenshot below)

  10. Specify your provider information as follows; Host=storage.msn.com, Page=/storageservice/MetaWeblog.rpc, Port=443, HTTPS=checked (screenshot below)

  11. Enter your username and password. Your username is the name of your space (e.g. I use 'carnage4life' because the URL of my space is http://spaces.msn.com/members/carnage4life). The password is the secret word you selected when you turned on Email-Publishing on your space. (screenshot below)

  12. Click Finish.

  13. Go ahead and create, edit or delete blog posts on your blog using W.Bloggar


Categories: Windows Live