As some of you may have noticed the MSN Spaces homepage changed last night. It is officially out of beta and there have been a few enhancements to the service made in the transition.
You can catch the offical word from the press release Global Availability of MSN Messenger and MSN Spaces Connects People Around the World. Highlights below
Over the past year MSN has seen consumers' appetite for richer, personalized online communications services surge globally, as evidenced by the rapid growth of MSN Messenger and MSN Spaces. Since the MSN Spaces beta version was introduced in late 2004, more than 4.5 million Spaces have been created, making MSN Spaces one of the fastest-growing blogging services in the world.
MSN Spaces Offers Consumers Easy Way to Connect and Share Photos, Music and More
With today's launch, MSN Spaces, a blogging service, will now be available in 15 languages and 30 markets worldwide. While MSN Messenger enables people to connect in real time, MSN Spaces augments their IM relationship by enabling people to connect on their own time, letting friends and family know they have something new to share via "gleam" notifications on their MSN Messenger contact list. MSN Spaces is a dynamic online scrapbook where consumers can easily post blogs, photo albums, personal music lists and more, essentially telling the story of their life. Customers have control over whom they share their Space with: limiting it to a few, sharing only with those on their MSN Messenger contact list, or opening it up to the worldwide Internet.
But enough of the official spiel. As always the good stuff is to be found in the blogs. One of the changes made is that about 50 new themes have been added, providing users with more choices when deciding to customize their Space. Karen has the low down in her post new themes!. I saw a bunch of complaints while Spaces was in beta about the available themes being "ugly". A number of the new themes are quite simple yet elegant which I'm sure will appeal to the aesthetic folks out there.
We've also made some storage improvements as Mike points out in his post More storage, better comments... and more! . Specifically we've tripled photo storage space from 10MB to 30MB and there's no longer a length limit on comments. Also URLs in comments are automatically changed to hyperlinks (with rel=nofollow applied).
My favorite changes are the RSS & pinging enhancements which I had some input into. As Mike writes
Clicking on the orange RSS button or the "Syndicate" link above will no longer spit out raw XML to your readers using a modern browser. Instead, they will see a "pretty printed" RSS feed with a link to learn more, subscribe in My MSN, or subscribe in an aggregator supporting one-click subscription (feed://)
To see an example of what this looks like in practice, check out the RSS feed for my Space. If you are wondering what RSS readers support one click subscription, the list includes Shrook, RSS Bandit, NewsGator, NetNewsWire, FeedDemon, Awasu, SharpReader, FeedReader, WinRSS, VoxLite, and NewzCrawler.
Another cool RSS enhancement is that the number of comments one each post is now provided using the
slash:comments elements. Now users of aggregators like RSS Bandit can track the comment counts on various posts on a space. I've been wanting that since last year.
Last year, Spaces sent pings to Weblogs.com when new posts were created. With last night's release this list has expanded to include Feedster, Technorati, PubSub, and My MSN.