November 30, 2005
@ 06:19 PM

These Windows Live services keeping popping up. The general public can now sign up for the Windows OneCare Live beta. More information about the new beta can be gleaned from the blog post entitled Consumer Beta Goes Live! from the Windows OneCare team blog. For those who are wondering what the service is below, the following brief description may help

What it is:
An automatically self-updating PC health service that runs quietly in the background. It helps give you persistent protection against viruses, hackers, and other threats, and helps keep your PC tuned up and your important documents backed up.
What it does for you:
• Runs quietly in the background, providing anti-virus and firewall protection
• Updates itself to help you keep ahead of the latest threats
• Runs regular PC tune ups
• Provides one-click solutions to most problems
• Makes back-ups a breeze
• Lets you see the status of your system at a glance
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a beta?
Beta is geekspeak for “not finished yet.” A beta product is something we are still working on and invite regular users to test out. We’re asking you to check out Windows OneCare Live beta and let us know what you really think—good and bad. That way, we can make the final product the best it can be.
Does it cost anything?
Nope. The beta version of Windows OneCare Live is free, though the final service will be a paid subscription.
What if new viruses or other Internet threats come out?
Windows OneCare Live regularly updates itself based on emerging Internet threats. So you can have better peace of mind.

I've had some interaction with the OneCare folks as part of my day job and the definitely are working on building a compelling service. Give it a try.


Categories: Windows Live

November 30, 2005
@ 05:58 PM

The reviews for the most recent release of RSS Bandit have begun to flow in and they've been very positive. Below are excerpts from various blog posts and official reviews of the release.

Heinz Tschabitscher writes in the About.Com review of v1.3.0.38 of RSS Bandit

Guide Rating - rating

The Bottom Line

RSS Bandit is a nice and very capable feed reader that lets you browse news in an organized fashion. Its flexibility, virtual folders and synchronization abilities are great, but it would be even greater if it integrated with Bloglines in addition to NewsGator Online.

In his post Trying out, and loving, the new RSS Bandit Kevin Briody writes

Dare Obasanjo and team released the latest version of RSS Bandit (aka “Nightcrawler”), and I’ve got to say I’m really digging it. It is easily as fully featured as FeedDemon - my current reader - synchs with Newsgator, and has a few extra bells and whistles to boot. See comments to posts in a tree-menu drop-down is handy, and being able to customize the fonts and colors for browsing feeds is a lifesaver on the eyes.

All told, very cool. I’ll run Bandit and FD side-by-side for a while, but I may have myself a new reader.

In his post RSS Bandit rocks! Steve Lacey writes

Dare Obasanjo has just released the new version of his aggregator, RSS Bandit, and to put it bluntly, it completely rocks.

For the past eight months, I’ve been using my own home grown aggregator Katana. I wrote Katana as an experiment in C#/.Net programming and because nothing else out there did everything I wanted an aggregator to do.

Now, RSS Bandit has come forward in leaps and bounds. My favourite features?

  • The "River of News"/Newspaper view when clicking on a feed rather than the an article.
  • Great feed discovery.
  • Tabbed browsing.
  • Performance. This release is way faster than previous releases.
  • Support for folders. This is a key one that many other aggregators miss.
  • Newsgroup integration.
  • Style. Somewhere along the line, RSS Bandit got sexy…

If there’s one thing it’s missing, it’s the ability for comments to appear in the article window, inline with the article itself. I really like this feature in Katana. I’d also like some form of visual notification (article/feed in italics for example), that there are new comments available.

Other than that, I think I’m hooked. The “River Of News” view has accelerated my blog consumption.

In the post entitled RSS Bandit on the Microsoft Show's blog it states

Dare Obasanjo released RSS Bandit 1.3.038. At first I was hesitant to download it wow, am I glad I did.

This time around RSS Bandit handled my large amount of feeds much better than prior releases (the last one I played with was .31). Huge performance boost – and my machine is not a low spec’d machine. Prior releases it would take forever to go through them all which in comparison FeedDemon blazed through it. Not this time though…RSS Bandit did great!

One feature I never really appreciated before: RSS Bandit has a folder to show feed errors. In comparison FeedDemon lists you know on the feed that there is an error but having a list is handy especially since I have monitor a lot of feeds for various purposes.

Speaking of errors, RSS Bandit used to give me errors when the feed was working. I am not getting the same amount or “wrong” errors. Yes, the occasional unable to connect which is standard with all readers. RSS Bandit is much more accurate now. I think that is why I appreciate the feature now. Since the feeds in the folder are “really” unavailable, I can better manage problem feeds.

I also love the threaded view – it really helps me keep track of the conversation, which I’ve admitted I have a problem with.

Playing with it a short time, I’m impressed with the improvements. Excellent work Dare!

In his post New RSS Bandit released Robert Scoble writes

Dare Obasanjo announces that a sizeable new release of RSS Bandit is now available. I downloaded and installed this and it looks great. This is a free RSS News Aggregator and is my favorite of the free ones out there. His post explains what’s new, but I really like that it synchronizes to NewsGator now.

I'd like to thank everyone for all the positive feedback. We definitely have more goodness planned over the next few months and will add some of the features requested above. There should be a bug fix release within the next 30 days to take care of any fatal edge case bugs which weren't found until after the release and will add a few more translations to the mix (e.g. Japanese & Russian). After that, our focus will be on the Jubilee release.


Categories: RSS Bandit

November 30, 2005
@ 05:35 PM
From TechCrunch we learn RSS is Now Integrated into Yahoo Mail and Alerts. This is a great addition to the service and something I'll definitely be trying out in my Yahoo! Mail account once it is available. I wonder if they'll provide an API to allow desktop RSS readers to synchronize their state like Bloglines and Newsgator Online do?

The following is an excerpt from Michael Arrington's post on the announcement

Yahoo gathered a small group of bloggers, press and others at Sauce in San Francisco tonight to announce the launch of two new RSS products. They have integrated an RSS reader directly into Yahoo Mail Beta, and are expanding Alerts to include RSS feeds.

These are significant new products, aimed squarely at new and mainstream RSS users. The service is not live as of the time I am posting this. I’ve added a screen shot picture from the live demo.


Yahoo has deeply integrated RSS into the Yahoo Mail beta experience. Directly below the email folders are “RSS folders”. Clicking on the top folder show all posts in a “river of news” format, meaning all posts for all subscribed feeds are listed in the order they have appeared in feeds.

Each feed also has its own folder, allowing the user to read feeds individually (more like bloglines).

A post from any feed is treated exactly like an email - any post can be forwarded as an email or dragged into a folder and saved. All of the great AJAX functionality already working in Yahoo’s Mail beta works with the new RSS functionality as well.

Adding feeds is straightforward - include the feed URL or choose from a number of popular feeds.


Danah Boyd has an excellent post entitled Attention Networks vs. Social Networks which tackles some of the issues we've faced while designing Social Networking for Windows Live. She writes

The vast majority of online social networking tools assume that users are modeling friendship and thus if you're friends with someone, they better damn well be friends with you. As such, they use undirected graphs and you are required to confirm that they are indeed your friend.

Well, what about fandom? Orkut actually put the concept of fan into their system, but in order to be someone's fan, you had to be their friend first. Baroo? I've noticed that Friendster introduced fans, although it is not consistent across the site; the system decides who is celebrity. I can be a fan of Pamela Anderson but i cannot be a fan of Michel Foucault or Henry Jenkins. While i can understand that the former is clearly a Fakester, the latter is actually a real academic with a Friendster Profile that i genuinely admire (far more than Ms. Anderson). Even on MySpace where bands have a separate section, i have to add them to my friends; i cannot simply be fans.

The world is not an undirected graph and very little about social life online is actually undirected. Many social relations are unequal; they are rooted in directional graphs - fandom, power, hierarchy. So why do we use undirected models?

Of course, there are many systems that have directed graphs. I can read blogs by bloggers who who don't read me; blogrolls are directed. I can have friends on LiveJournal that do not reciprocate. I can subscribe to feeds of people that i admire without forcing them to do the same. I can make a Flickr user a contact simply so that i can watch their photos. I do all this because i know the world is not undirected.

Part of the problem is that we've built a model off of social networks instead of attention networks and there's a very subtle difference between the two. Attention networks recognize power. They recognize that someone may actually have a good collection of references or be a good photographer and that someone else may want to pay attention to them even if their own collections are not worthy of reciprocation. Attention networks realize that the world is not an undirected graph.

There are many good reasons to use attention networks in systems instead of social networks. Do you really want to force people to get permission to subscribe to public material of someone else? Do you really want to put people through the awkwardness of having to approve someone that they don't know simply because one person respects the other? Of course, the awkwardness of social networks does not disappear simply by having directed graphs. Reciprocity is still an issue whenever the networks are performative (visible as a statement of connection). This is most apparent in the blogging community where people feel insulted that they are not included on the blogroll of a blog that they read regularly.

This is a pretty good summary of some of the key issues folks like Mike and myself had to work through when building our Social Networking feature set. There definitely is a key distinction between attention networks and social networks, unfortunately a lot of social software applications have conflated the two. Even worse, thanks to the proliferation of social networking tools, many users have difficulty adjusting to dealing with attention networks. An example of this is the awkwardness Danah describes when people become upset because they aren't on your blogroll and vice versa.

I definitely have a lot of thoughts in this area but I'd like to wait until we've shipped before touching on this topic in more depth.


Categories: Social Software

Tim Bray has a post entitled Thought Experiments where he writes

To keep things short, let’s call OpenDocument Format 1.0 "ODF" and the Office 12 XML File Formats "O12X".

Alternatives · In ODF we have a format that’s already a stable OASIS standard and has multiple shipping implementations. In O12X we have a format that will become a stable ECMA standard with one shipping implementation sometime a year or two from now, depending on software-development and standards-process timetables. ODF is in the process of working its way through ISO, and O12X will apparently be sent down that road too, which should put ISO in an interesting situation.

On the technology side, the two formats are really more alike than they are different. But, there are differences: O12X's design center, Microsoft has said repeatedly, is capturing the exact semantics of the billions of existing Microsoft Office documents. ODF’s design center is general-purpose reusability, and leveraging existing standards like SVG and MathML and so on.

Which do you like better? I know which one I’d pick. But I think we’re missing the point.

Why Are There Two? · Almost all office documents are just paragraphs of text, with some bold and some italics and some lists and some tables and some pictures. Almost all spreadsheets are numbers and labels, with some sums and averages and pivots and simple algebra. Almost all presentations are lists of bullet points with occasional pictures.

The capabilities of ODF and O12X are essentially identical for all this basic stuff. So why in the flaming hell does the world need two incompatible formats to express it? The answer, obviously, is, "it doesn’t".

I find it extremely ironic that one of the driving forces behind creating a redundant and duplicative XML format for website syndication would be one of the first to claim that we only need one XML format to solve any problem. For those who aren't in the know, Tim Bray is one of the chairs of the Atom Working Group in the IETF whose primary goal is to create a competing format to RSS 2.0 which does basically the same thing. In fact Tim Bray has written a decent number of posts attempting to explain why we need multiple XML formats for syndicating blog posts, news and enclosures on the Web.

But let's ignore the messenger and focus on the message. Tim Bray's question is quite fair and in fact he answers it later on in his blog entry. As Tim Bray writes, "Microsoft wants there to be an office-document XML format that covers their billions of legacy documents". That's it in a nutshell. Microsoft created XML versions of its binary document formats like .doc and .xls that had full fidelity with the features of these formats. That way a user can convert a 'legacy' binary Office document to a more interoperable Office XML document without worrying about losing data, formatting or embedded rich media. This is a very important goal for the Microsoft Office team and very different from the goal of the designers of the OpenDocument format. 

Is it technically possible to create a 'common shared office-XML dialect for the basics' as Tim Bray suggests? It is. It'll probably take several years (e.g. the Atom syndication format which is simply a derivative of RSS has taken over two years to come to fruition) and once it is done, Microsoft will have to 'embrace and extend' it to meet its primary goal of 100% backwards compatibility with its legacy formats. And that doesn't answer the question of what Microsoft should ship in the meantime with regards to file formats in its Office products. After all, Office 12 is scheduled to ship in the second half of 2006.

There is no simple technical solution on the horizon that will change the fact that there are be multiple XML formats for Office documents. What we need to agree on is the best way forward, not attempt to demonize each other for trying to do what's best for our customers.

Disclaimer: I work at Microsoft. However I do not work in any area related to the Office XML formats. The above is my personal opinion and should not be construed as an expression of the opinions, intents or strategies of my employer.


Categories: XML

November 27, 2005
@ 06:23 PM

The Nightcrawler release of RSS Bandit is now done and available for all. Besides the new features there are a number of performance improvements especially with regards to the responsiveness of the application. This release is available in the following languages; German, English, Brazilian Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Polish, and Serbian.

Download the installer from here. Differences between v1.3.0.29 and v1.3.0.38 below.


  • NNTP Newsgroups support: Users can specify a public NNTP server such as and subscribe to newsgroups on that server. Users can also respond to newsgroup posts as well as create new posts. Permalinks in a newsgroup post point to the post on Google Groups.

  • Item Manipulation from Newspaper Views: Items can be marked as read or unread and flagged or unflagged directly from the newspaper view. This improves end user work flow as one no longer has to leave the newspaper view and right-click on the list view to either flag or mark a post as unread.

  • Subscription Wizard: The process for subscribing to newsgroups, search results and web feeds has been greatly simplified. For example, users no longer need to know the web feed of a particular web site to subscribe to it but can instead specify the web page URL and discovery of its web feed is done automatically.

  • Synchronization with Newsgator Online: Users can synchronize the state of their subscribed feeds (read/unread posts, new/deleted feeds, etc) between RSS Bandit and their account on Newsgator Online. This allows the best of both worlds where one can use both a rich desktop client (RSS Bandit) and a web-based RSS reader (Newsgator Online) without having to worry about marking things as read in both places.

  • Using back and forward arrows to view last post seen in reading pane: When navigating various feeds in the RSS Bandit tree view it is very useful to be able to go back to the last feed or item viewed especially when using the [spacebar] button to read unread items. RSS Bandit now provides a way to navigate back and forth between items read in the reading pane using the back and forward buttons in the toolbar. 

  • Atom 1.0 support: The Atom 1.0 syndication format is now supported.

  • Threaded Posts Now Optional: The feature where items that link to each other are shown as connected items reminiscent of threaded discussions can now be disabled and is off by default. This feature is very processor intensive and can slow down the average computer to the point that is unusable if one is subscribed to a large number of feeds.

  • Launching Browsers in the Background: A new Web browser can now be opened from a newspaper view without it stealing the focus of the application by holding down Ctrl when clicking a link in the reading pane.

  • UI Improvements: Icons in the tree view have been improved to make them more distinctive and also visually separate newsgroups from web feeds.


  • Scroll wheel manipulates the main window instead of the drop down list on a dialog box when the dialog box has focus.

  • Setting the default refresh rate to 0 (zero) did not disable automatic refresh of all feeds

  • No results displayed when subscribed to URLs with escaped characters such as

  • ThreadAbortException error sometimes occurs when multiple feeds clicked on in rapid succession

  • Mark all as read in a search folder does not update the treeview state of the subscriptions

  • Refresh button for web browser refresh does not work

  • Treeview font issue. Font height may rendered way too small on high-res screen resolutions or with custom font definitions that use big fonts.

  • Keyboard shortcut for "Mark All Items As Read" changed to Ctrl+Q from Ctrl+M

  • Deleting a feed changes the selected tree node to the "My Feeds" node instead of the next node in the tree.

  • Proxy bypass server list damaged after reload of the Options dialog if more than one bypass address/server was specified.

  • Pushing [spacebar] or "Next Unread Item" when positioned in comments goes to newest unread instead of oldest unread comment.

  • The links in the Options dialog didn't work

  • Ctrl-Enter does not expand the URLs as expected

  • When uploading a feed list, the dialog box that appears on successful upload has been removed since it is redundant. .

  • The "Email This" menu option didn't work correctly

  • Crash caused if an item has already been added: "AppUserDataPath"

  • Tab controls on the Options dialog are rendered incorrectly on wide screen displays (16:9 aspect ratio)

  • Category settings don't stick for nested categories

  • Crash occurs after setting properties for a category if some feeds are not in a category

  • Toolbar state and window maximized states are not saved if appplication was closed via system tray icon context menu

  • Modifying the feedlist while loading feeds from disk or refreshing from the Web by subscribing to a new feed or deletion stops the feeds loading/downloading progress.

  • On failed authentication with credentials, we don't ignore cookies and retry one more time before giving up and reporting the failure

  • Some HTML entities are not decoded correctly in UI widgets

  • NullReferenceException error on "Update category" command

  • Access requests to comment feeds on a password-protected feed do not use the credentials used to access the main feed

  • Search criteria on search folders not reloaded correctly on restart


Categories: RSS Bandit

Jeff Jarvis has a post entitled A principle: I have a right to know when I am read which is somewhat charming in its naivaté. He writes

How about this as a fundamental principle of content and conversation on the internet:

I have a right to know when what I create is read, heard, viewed, or used if I wish to know that.

That is my followup to the whine about RSS — and content — caching below.

If this simple principle were built into applications — not the internet, per se, but in how readers and viewers work — then caching and P2P, which both serve creators by reducing bandwidth demand, would not be issues. This also would help those who want to make use of advertising (though actually serving ads is a different matter).

I’d like to see this as a technical add-on to Creative Commons: Distribute my content freely, please, on the condition that you allow applications to report traffic back to me. And applications designers should build such reporting in. The creator is still free not to require this and the end user is still free not to consume those things that require ping-backs. But simple traffic reporting is at least common courtesy.

I  can understand where Jeff is coming from with this post. However that doesn't change the fact that it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Web has worked for over a decade. The results of Web requests being cached by intermediates between the user and target web server is a fundamental aspect of the design of the World Wide Web. From intermediate proxy servers at your ISP or your corporate network right down to your Web browser, caching Web requests is a fundamental feature. This reduces the load on target Web servers and leads to a better user experience due to increased page loads.  A consequence of this is that web site owners most often have an inaccurate view of how many people are actually reading their web site. All of this is explained in several writings from last decade such as Why web usage statistics are (worse than) meaningless and Understanding web log statistics and metrics.

Not being able to tell how many people are really reading your web site is a consequence of how the Web works. The only difference now is that instead of HTML, the discussion is about RSS feeds.  It's cool that some Web-based RSS readers provide readership numbers to website owners as part of their HTTP request. However this is a courtesy that they provide. Secondly, even if all Web-based RSS readers provide readership stats there is still the fact that traditional HTTP proxy servers don't. Is my ISPs proxy server sending back how many times its served cached requests for Jeff's feed back to him? I doubt it. I also am pretty sure that the proxy servers at my employer's don't either.

As for technical add-on to Creative Commons license? I'd be interested to see what kind of lawyering would produce a license that gives Jeff what he wants without requiring changes in every proxy server on the planet. 


Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I've spent the past day and a half with a large variety of young people whose ages range from 11 to 22 years old. The various conversations I've participated in and overheard have cemented some thoughts I've had about competition in the consumer software game.

This series of thoughts started with a conversation I had with someone who works on MSN Windows Live Search. We talked about the current focus we have on 'relevance' when it comes to our search engine. I agree that it's great to have goals around providing users with more relevant results but I think this is just a one [small] part of the problem. Google rose to prominence by providing a much better search experience than anyone else around. I think it's possible to build a search engine that is as good as Google's. I also think its possible to build one that is a little better than they are at providing relevant search results. However I strongly doubt that we'll see a search engine much better than Google's in the near future. I think that in the near future, what we'll see is the equivalent of Coke vs. Pepsi. Eventually, will we see the equivalents the Pepsi Challenge with regards to Web search engines? Supposedly, the Pepsi challenge shows that people prefer Pepsi to Coke in a blind taste test. However the fact is Coca Cola is the world's #1 soft drink, not Pepsi. A lot of this is due to Coke's branding and pervasive high quality advertising, not the taste of their soft drink. 

Google's search engine brand has gotten to the point where it is synonymous with Web search in many markets. With Google, I've seen a 7-year old girl who was told she was being taken to the zoo by her parents, rush to the PC to 'Google' the zoo to find out what animals she'd see that day. That's how pervasive the brand is.It's like the iPod and portable MP3 players. People ask for iPods for Xmas not MP3 players. When I get my next portable MP3 player, I'll likely just get a video iPod without even bothering to research the competition. Portable audio used to be synonymous with the Sony Walkman until the game changed and they got left behind. Now that portable audio is synonymous with MP3 players, it's the Apple iPod. I don't see them being knocked off their perch anytime soon unless another game changing transition occurs.

So what does this mean for search engine competition and Google? Well, I think increasing a search engine's relevance to become competitive with Google's is a good goal but it is a route that seems guaranteed to make you the Pepsi to their Coke or the Burger King to their McDonalds. What you really need is to change the rules of the game, the way the Apple iPod did.

The same thing applies to stuff I work on in my day job. Watching an 11-year old spend hours on  MySpace and listening to college sorority girls talk about how much they use The Facebook, I realize we aren't just competing with other software tools and trying to build more features. We are competing with cultural phenomena. The MSN Windows Live Messenger folks have been telling me this about their competition with AOL Instant Messenger in the U.S. market and I'm beginning to see where they are coming from. 


Jeremy Epling responds to my recent post entitled Office Live: Evolve or Die with some disagreement. In his post Web Versions of Office Apps, Jeremy writes

In his post Office Live: Evolve or Die Dare Obasanjo a writes

I can understand the Office guys aren’t keen on building Web-based versions of their flagship apps but they are going to have get over it. They will eventually have to do it. The only question is whether they will lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.

I agree and disagree with Dare on this one. I agree because I think OWA should have been built and has a 2 compelling reasons to be Web based.

  1. Our increasing mobile population needs quick and easy anywhere access to communication. This is satisfied by a Web based app because a PC only needs a Web browser to “open” you mail app.
  2. Email is already stored on a server.

I disagree with Dare because of the two OWA advantages I listed above don’t equally apply to the other Office apps.

I don’t think anywhere access to document creation/editing is one of Office’s customer’s biggest pain points. Since it is not a major pain point it does not warrant investment because the cost of replicating all the Office flag ships apps as AJAX Web apps is too high.

There's a lot to disagree with in Jeremy's short post. In the comments to my original post, Jeremy argued that VPN software makes needing AJAX web apps redundant. However it seems he has conceded that this isn't true with the existence of Outlook Web Access. Considering that our increasingly mobile customers can use the main Outlook client either through their VPN or even with straight HTTP/HTTPS using the RPC over HTTP feature of Exchange, it is telling that many instead choose to use OWA.

Let's ignore that contradiction and just stick strictly to the rules Jeremy provides for deciding that OWA is worth doing but Web-based versions of Excel or Word are not. Jeremy's first point is that increasingly mobile users need access to their communications tools. I agree. However I also believe that people need 'anywhere' access to their business documents as well. As a program manager, most of my output is product specifications and email (sad but true). I don't see why I need 'anywhere' access to the latter but not the former. Jeremy's second point is that corporate email is already stored on a server. First of all, in my scenarios our team's documents are stored on a Sharepoint server. Secondly, even if all my documents were on my local machine, that doesn't change the fact that ideally I should be able to access them from another machine without needing VPN's and the same version of Office on the machine I'm on. In fact, provides exactly this 'anywhere' access to digital media on my PC and it works great. Why couldn't this notion be extended to my presentations, spreadsheets and documents as well? 

Somebody is eventually going to solve this problem. As an b0rg employee, I hope its Microsoft. However if we keep resisting the rising tide that is the Web maybe it'll be or even Google that will eat our lunch in this space.


Categories: Technology

November 23, 2005
@ 05:55 PM

The folks behind have a team blog which already has a bunch of informative posts answering the major questions people have had about the service. If you are interested in the service, you should definitely read their post entitled Let's Answer Some of Your Questions where they do exactly that.


Categories: Windows Live

November 23, 2005
@ 05:44 PM

I recently got a demo of from Mike Torres and I was quite impressed. Mike talks about the capabilities of the service in his post & "placeshifting" where he wrote

I now have unlimited storage for videos, television, music, and photos in my pocket for $399 less than an iPod video.

How is that possible?

A free service designed for cell phones, PCs, Macs, and PDAs that gives me access to my computer at home to get at all of my digital media.  All of it.  I don’t have to worry about cradling or synchronizing anything every day... and I don’t have to carry a 250GB hard drive in my coat pocket either.  Beautiful.
From my phone or from my laptop at work (or anywhere else with a net connection):

I can listen to all of my WMA Lossless music on my PC at home; over 700 albums collected over the last 15 years.  I can play by genre, playlist, album, artist, or even do a search across all my music.  Of course, it doesn’t stream at lossless quality, but for walking around downtown Seattle, the quality is fine (128kbps – same as iTunes actually).

I can watch LIVE television – including cable – from wherever I am.  I can change the channel remotely – if I’m watching MSNBC and want to switch over to MTV, it takes about 5-7 seconds to do so.  If I like what I’m watching, I can click the record button and catch up with the program when I get home.  This blows people away when they see it ;)

I can view (and even download) my digital photos.  Whenever someone asks about some random event we attended together, I can pull up photos from that event within a few seconds.  With over 10,000 of my digital photos available to me from anywhere, I’ll never again say “Argh.  I have that on my computer at home.”

I can watch recorded television.  Meaning I can setup my Media Center PC to record shows to my hard drive and can click Play from anywhere to catch up with the show.  Before now, I didn’t have any time to watch Sportscenter... now I can listen to it on the way to work.

I can turn on my webcam and watch my cats.  Remember, I’m doing this from my freakin' PHONE.

I am so amazed by this service that I considered not even blogging about it.  I didn’t think I could do it justice.  I still don’t.
Overall this is the perfect example of combining software with online services to enable great scenarios for everyday people. It just works for me.

These guys have built a killer service. I'm quite surprised that they haven't been snapped up by one of the big web companies already.


November 23, 2005
@ 02:13 PM

I got the feedback from Bill Gates and his TA about my Thinkweek paper this morning.

They liked it. :)


Categories: Ramblings

In his post Really Simple Sharing, Ray Ozzie announced Simple Sharing Extensions for RSS and OPML. He writes

As an industry, we have simply not designed our calendaring and directory software and services for this “mesh” model. The websites, services and servers we build seem to all want to be the “owner” and “publisher”; it’s really inconsistent with the model that made email so successful, and the loosely-coupled nature of the web.

Shortly after I started at Microsoft, I had the opportunity to meet with the people behind Exchange, Outlook, MSN, Windows Mobile, Messenger, Communicator, and more. We brainstormed about this “meshed world” and how we might best serve it - a world where each of these products and others’ products could both manage these objects and synchronize each others’ changes. We thought about how we might prototype such a thing as rapidly as possible – to get the underpinnings of data synchronization working so that we could spend time working on the user experience aspects of the problem – a much better place to spend time than doing plumbing.

There are many great item synchronization mechanisms out there (and at Microsoft), but we decided we’d never get short term network effects among products if we selected something complicated – even if it were powerful. What we really longed for was "the RSS of synchronization" ... something simple that would catch on very quickly.

Using RSS itself as-is for synchronization wasn't really an option. That is, RSS is primarily about syndication - unidirectional publishing - while in order to accomplish the “mesh” sharing scenarios, we'd need bi-directional (actually, multi-directional) synchronization of items. But RSS is compelling because of the power inherent in its simplicity.
And so we created an RSS extension that we refer to as Simple Sharing Extensions or SSE. In just a few weeks time, several Microsoft product groups and my own 'concept development group' built prototypes and demos, and found that it works and interoperates quite nicely.

We’re pretty excited about the extension - well beyond the uses that catalyzed its creation. It’s designed in such a way that the minimum implementation is incredibly easy, and so that higher-level capabilities such as conflict handling can be implemented in those applications that want to do such things.

The model behind SSE is pretty straightforward; to sychronize data across multiple sources, each end point provides a feed and the subscribes to the feeds provided by the other end point(s).  I hate to sound like a fanboy but SSE is an example of how Ray Ozzie showed up at Microsoft and just started kicking butt. I've been on the periphery of some of the discussions of SSE and reviewed early drafts of the spec. It's been impressive seeing how much quick progress Ray made internally on getting this idea polished and evangelized.

The spec looks good modulo the issues that tend to dog Microsoft when it ships specs like this. For example,  is a lack of detail around data types (e.g. nowhere is the date format used by the spec documented although you can assume it's RFC 822 dates based on the examples) and there is also the lack of any test sites that have feeds which use this format so enterprising hackers can quickly write some code to prototype implementations and try out ideas.

Sam Ruby has posted a blog entry critical of Microsoft's practices when it publishes RSS extension specifications in his post This is Sharing? where he writes

The first attribute that the the Simple Sharing Extensions for RSS and OPML is to “treat the item list as an ordered set”.  This sounds like something from the Simple List Extensions Specification that was also hatched in private and then unleashed with great fanfare about five months ago. Sure a wiki was set up, but any questions posted there were promptly ignored.  The cone of silence has been so impenetrable that even invoking the name Scoble turns out to be ineffective. 

Now the Simple List Extensions Specification URI redirects to an ad for vaporware.  Some things never change.

Should we wait for version 3.0?

I agree with all of Sam's feedback. Hopefully Microsoft will do better this time around.


I just chatted with Torsten this morning and we've decided to ship the next release of RSS Bandit this weekend, on November 27th to be exact. As part of the final stretch, we've reached the point where we have to request for translators.

As RSS Bandit is a hobbyist application worked on in our free time, we rely on the generosity of our users when it comes to providing translations of our application. Currently we have completed translations for Brazilian Portuguese, German and Traditional Chinese. We also have folks working on Hindi and Dutch translations. If you look at the supported language matrix for RSS Bandit, you'll not that this means we don't have translators for previously supported languages like Polish, French, Russian, Japanese, Turkish or Serbian. If you'd like to provide your skills as a translator to the next release of RSS Bandit and believe you can get this done by this weekend then please send mail to . We'd appreciate your help.


Categories: RSS Bandit

Nick Bradbury has a post entitled An Attention Namespace for OPML where he writes

In a recent post I said that OPML would be a great format for sharing attention data, but I wasn't sure whether this would be possible due to uncertainty over OPML's support for namespaces.
As I mentioned previously, FeedDemon already stores attention data in OPML, but it uses a proprietary fd: namespace which relies on attributes that make little sense outside of FeedDemon. What I propose is that aggregator users and developers have an open discussion about what specific attention data could (and should) be collected by aggregators.

Although there's a lot of attention data that could be stored in OPML, my recommendation is that we keep it simple - otherwise, we risk seeing each aggregator support a different subset of attention data. So rather than come up with a huge list of attributes, I'll start by recommending a single piece of attention data: rank.

We need a way to rank feeds that makes sense across aggregators, so that when you export OPML from one aggregator, the aggregator you import into would know which feeds you're paying the most attention to. This could be used for any number of things - recommending related feeds, giving higher ranked feeds higher priority in feed listings, etc.

Although user interface and workflow differences require each aggregator to have its own algorithm for ranking feeds, we should be able to define a ranking attribute that makes sense to every aggregator. In FeedDemon's case, a simple scale (say, 0-100) would work: feeds you rarely read would get be ranked closer to zero, while feeds you read all the time would be ranked closer to 100. Whether this makes sense outside of FeedDemon remains to be seen, so I'd love to hear from developers of other aggregators about this.

I used be the program manager responsible for a number of XML technologies in the .NET Framework while I was on the XML team at Microsoft. The technology I spent the most time working with was the XML Schema Definition Language (XSD). After working with XSD for about three years, I came to the conclusion that XSD has held back the proliferation and advancement of XML technologies by about two or three years. The lack of adoption of web services technologies like SOAP and WSDL on the world wide web is primarily due to the complexity of XSD. The fact that XQuery has spent over 5 years in standards committees and has evolved to become a technology too complex for the average XML developer is also primarily the fault of XSD.  This is because XSD is extremely complex and yet is rather inflexible with minimal functionality. This state of affairs is primarily due to its nature as a one size fits all technology with too many contradictory design objectives. In my opinion, the W3C XML Schema Definition language is a victim of premature standardization. The XML world needed experiment more with various XML schema languages like XDR and RELAX NG before we decided to settle down and come up with a standard.

So what does this have to do with attention data and XML? Lots. We are a long way from standardization. We aren't even well into the experimentation stage yet. How many feed readers do a good job of giving you an idea of which among the various new items in your RSS inbox are worth reading? How many of them do a good job suggesting new feeds for you to read based on your reading habits? Until we get to a point where such features are common place in feed readers, it seems like putting the cart way before the horse to start talking about standardizing the XML representation of these features.

Let's look at the one field Nick talks about standardizing; rank. He wants all readers to track 'rank' using a numeric scale of 1-100. This seems pretty arbitrary. In RSS Bandit, users can flag posts as Follow Up, Review, Read, Reply or Forward. How does that map to a numeric scale? It doesn't. If I allowed users to prioritize feeds, it wouldn't be in a way that would map cleanly to a numeric scale. 

My advice to Nick and others who are entertaining ideas around standardizing attention data in OPML; go build some features first and see which ones work for end users and which ones don't. Once we've figured that out amongst multiple readers with diverse user bases, then we can start thinking about standardization.


We are getting down to the end game for getting the Nightcrawler release of RSS Bandit. This is where all the more unfun parts of the release happen such as dealing with translations and tracking down performance bugs such as memory leaks or issues with multithreading. To take my mind of some of the tedium I'm going to have to deal with today, I've decided to spend some time thinking about the Jubilee release of RSS Bandit which should ship sometime next year

One of the features I'm evaluating is Reading lists for RSS which was discussed by Nick Bradbury in a blog entry he posted last month where he wrote

Last week Dave Winer proposed the idea of reading lists for RSS, which are more-or-less OPML subscriptions. I like this idea - a lot - and in fact a few FeedDemon customers have requested this feature in the past.

In a nutshell, the idea is that you'd subscribe to an OPML document which contains a list of feeds that someone is reading, some organization is recommending, or some service has generated (such as "Top 100" list). Changes to the source OPML document would be synchronized, so that you're automatically subscribed to feeds added to the reading list. Likewise, you'd be unsubscribed from feeds removed from the original OPML.

There are a number of implementation details that would need to be worked out (ex: would a FeedDemon user really want to be automatically unsubscribed from feeds dropped from the source OPML, especially if that user had flagged some posts in those feeds for future reference?), but details aside, I'm curious whether this is something you'd like to see, and if so, how do you think the idea can be improved upon?

This feature initially made me skeptical since it seems like a solution looking for a problem. Then again I thought the same thing about enclosures in RSS and I've been proved wrong by the podcasting phenomenom. So instead of ignoring the idea I'd like to see whether our users think this feature makes sense and if so how they expect us to resolve certain problems that would arise from implementing such a feature.

The first problem that comes up in implementing RSS reading lists based on OPML is what to do when a feed is pulled from the list by the owner of the feed list. Do we automatically delete the subscription? Do we prompt the user and if they decide to stay subscribed to the feed, move it out of the reading list? Another question is how to deal with feeds that the user is already subscribed to that are in the reading list?

What do you think?

November 20, 2005
@ 04:19 PM

Given the very negative beef that offshoring has in the U.S. technology industry I've found it interesting how favorable Microsoft employees are towards the practice. From reading the blogs of various Microsoft employees, it seems a number of different products now have part of their development team in Asia. Below are excerpts from a few of blog posts that highlight this trend.

In his post Some Kahuna Stuff, Omar Shahine of Hotmail Windows Live Mail writes

Finally, Aditya announced that he will be moving to Shanghai, to work in our MSN Shanghai Tech Center. We actually have a small team of really smart developers and testers over in Shanghai that are working on various aspects of Kahuna. For those of you that have Kahuna accounts, they are responsible for getting the MSN Calendar into the M3 release of Kahuna which is a project I worked on in my "spare time" while also working on Kahuna M3. I'll be going over to Shanghai in a few weeks to hang with them.

Aditya (who is one of the folks I manage) is one of the co-creaters of FireAnt, the technology that we built Kahuna on. While he'll be missed around the hallways of our campus, he'll be continuing to do some great stuff over in China. It's an amazing opportunity, and I'm really excited about growing and building a strong product development team there.

In his post Travel and Books Chris Anderson of Avalon Windows Presentation Foundation writes

Just got back from China. I spent last week visiting the Microsoft office in Beijing. The Avalon team is partnering with a group in China to produce some of the control and features in Avalon. It was great to get to meet all the folks over there. So, over the past 3 weeks I've spent 1 in LA, 1 in Seattle, and 1 in Beijing.

In the post IE Development in China, Christopher Vaughan of the Internet Explorer team writes

Tony Chor, Rob Franco, and myself are in Beijing today as we make our way to Kuala Lumpur for the Hack-In-The-Box conference. We have a great team over here in what we call the ATC (Advanced Technology Center). In the past 6 months they’ve gone from just starting to adding serious value to IE 7. The folks over here have already contributed to IE 7 by re-writing the select control which Chris Wilson alluded to in his post from the PDC. Other improvements that we’ll see come out of the ATC for IE include improving our bi-directional font support, font linking and fallback improvements, and increased accessibility support. Watch for more blog posts in the future from our teammates here in China covering the kinds of things they’re working on.

I think it's really cool that Microsoft employees are comfortable with the fact that it is a global company. I've seen some of the emotion and rhetoric around offshoring and U.S. companies get ugly which is unfortunate. Of course, Microsoft has a rather diverse and international work force which probably helps a lot.


Categories: Life in the B0rg Cube

November 20, 2005
@ 03:58 PM
In his post Dinner with Dan'l Lewin of Microsoft Dan Bricklin writes
I was invited to a little dinner tonight, along with John Landry and some others, with the visiting Dan'l Lewin of Microsoft...Earlier in the dinner we all introduced ourselves and Dan'l answered some questions about Live...Basically, he sounded like he couldn't say much and/or didn't know the answers and that we'll find out more in the spring (and is probably pretty happy the recording didn't come out...). He didn't seem keen on the idea of OWA-like (Outlook Web Access) versions of Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. Some of us let him know that's what we expected him to say but were surprised because it's what people want. (I had already told him some about wikiCalc.)

I can understand the Office guys aren't keen on building Web-based versions of their flagship apps but they are going to have get over it. They will eventually have to do it. The only question is whether they will lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.


Categories: Life in the B0rg Cube

I wrote my first gadget for yesterday; the MSN Spaces Photo Album Browser. Screenshot below

It didn't take that long but it was a frustrating experience trying to find documentation. I resorted to a combination of combing the Microsoft Gadgets forums, reading the source code of existing gadgets and reading the sparse documentation at We definitely have a lot of work to do in making this stuff more accessible to developers.

While working on it, I did get a fantastic tip for debugging Javascript from Matt. I didn't realize that I could use Visual Studio to debug any Javascript currently running in Internet Explorer in three steps. This is also explained in the IE blog post Scripting Debugging in Internet Explorer

  1. In Internet Explorer, select Tools->Internet Options…->Advanced->Disable Script Debugging
  2. In Visual Studio, select Debug->Processes
  3. In the Processes dialog, select the IE process you want to debug and then click the Attach button

That's it. Now you can set breakpoints and party like its 1999. Being able to debug script in this manner saved me hours of wasted time because it let me know that the object models exposed by and are different. Somebody definitely needs to hustle and get some documentation updated.


Categories: Web Development | Windows Live

November 19, 2005
@ 02:54 AM

Another Windows Live service shipped this week, From the site

Already own your own Internet domain name?

Have us host e-mail and IM for you in a domain you already own.

  • Create up to 20 e-mail accounts within your domain
  • Get a 250 MB inbox for each account*
  • Check your e-mail from any Web-enabled PC
  • Junk e-mail filter protection using Microsoft SmartScreen technology
  • Virus scanning and cleaning of e-mail
  • Seamless access with MSN Messenger, MSN Spaces, etc.
  • This is a pretty cool service and one I've been wanting for a while. Now I can provide email addresses for myself and others without actually having to host a mail server. Sign me up, baby. 


    Categories: Windows Live

    I found an interesting comment by someone named Dave in response to Shelley Powers's post Always in Alt. Dave wrote

    Microsoft made the bed they are now laying in.

    (1) As Shelley put so well, they abandoned an exceptionally large group of developers when they moved to .NET - I should know, I was one of them. (Don’t worry for me… I’ve moved onto greener, less proprietary pastures. Screw me once MS, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me.)

    (2) Worse yet, they are looking to do it again with the latest “Live” demo and supposedly-leaked emails about changing directions. This is one part of what MS has shown us alot of since 2000… they can’t stay in a single direction!

    (3) But the larger part of their problems is this insistent craving they have to make bold announcements of products that, well, NEVER see the light of day in a timely manner. Let’s compare….

    This year alone Apple announced three new iPods models, one brand-new Mac model, one new software suite, an upgrade to their other suite, delivered a major upgrade to their OS - two months ahead of time.

    Microsoft? Well, after underwhelming the media with some pre-beta Longhorn bits (about 2 years late I might add) and holding their PDC which finally showed us developers something of which _might_ be released in another 12 months, they finally delivered - about 18 months late - upgrades to MSSQL and VS.NET. Office got a decent upgrade but users have little compelling reason to spend money on it. There’s XBox of course. And then they delivered the worst demo anybody has ever seen about a change in directions.

    Where does this leave us developers? Very unhappy. Of course, as Scoble would put it - “real soon now” that will change. Of course, he said that 2 years ago too. In the meantime, I have to make a living. Can I do it using Microsoft Live products? Um, “real soon now”. How about using the - actually, quite excellent - new features of ASP.NET 2.0? Well, since they were promised back in 2004….

    LOL. I guess I would have needed to tell my kids _12 months ago_ that I’d put food on the table “real soon now” if I depended on such PR talk.

    PR talk…. now THAT is what is very wrong with Microsoft nowadays.

    There are a couple of themes here that should be addressed. The first is that Microsoft abandoned developers with its .NET strategy. In the move to managed code, I believe Microsoft could have done a better job of satisfying large bodies of its developer constituents such as VB6 users. The classic VB petition is probably the most visible manifestation of this feeling of abandonment by our customers. As Soma pointed out in the discussion around his post "Rumors of my (VB6) demise...", the leap the incompatibility between VB6 and Visual Basic.NET was not a decision taken lightly by the Microsoft Developer Division but was deemed necessary to advance the platform.

    The next point that Dave brings up is that the latest "Live" announcements are a radical change of direction that will cause disruption among our developer customers. I think this isn't right on two counts. First of all, the announcements aren't that radical a shift. A number of industry watchers such as Mary Jo Foley and Joe Wilcox have rightfully focused on this being more of a "sharpening of focus" for Microsoft than a radical new strategy. A significant number of the "Live" offerings are existing offerings that have been given new purpose and clearer goals. As time progresses, the Windows Live platform will unfold. This platform isn't a new set of developer tools and runtimes that will obsolete the .NET framework. That would suck. Instead these are APIs built around the Windows Live offerings and more that will give developers more opportunities to build interesting applications that delight users. A taste of this platform is at and we will be announcing more details in the coming months. 

    Dave's final point is that Microsoft is fond of announcing stuff years before it is ready. That is true and as a Microsoft employee I hate it a lot. I was talking to Brian Arbogast about this on Monday, and he agreed that we should endeavor to only announce things that people can use right away or can shortly thereafter. This is the philosophy around  

    There definitely is a lot of confusion out there about Microsoft's "Live" strategy and exactly what the "supposedly-leaked memos" mean. Now that Ray Ozzie has started back blogging, I assume he'll be taking a personal role in clarifying what his "Live" strategy means to Microsoft, its partners and its customers. I've subscribed to his blog. Have you?


    Categories: Windows Live

    November 16, 2005
    @ 11:45 PM

    I finally got to try out Google Base and it does seem to be an interesting experience. It reminds me a lot of Of course, it's missing key functionality like web feeds and a proper API, but if I was told to build the next version of it would probably look a bit like Google Base. The three key improvements to being

    1. Supporting more item types beyond "favorite link". This means supporting metadata fields beyond title, link and description.
    2. Allowing users to define their own fields
    3. Adding  much better search capabilities
    This definitely looks like an experiment by Google to see what people do with the service which might explain it's unpolished look. It's not clear how people will end up using it but I'm sure they will since its the latest new thing from Google.


    Categories: Web Development

    November 15, 2005
    @ 04:03 PM

    I rarely repost comments I made in other blogs but this is one of those times. In his post I gave Douglas Englebart a mouse and a book Robert Scoble writes

    It all started earlier this afternoon when Buzz Bruggeman asked me in an email “want to have dinner with Douglas Englebart?”

    First of all, if you don’t know who Douglas Englebart is you better do some reading. He invented the mouse and many of the concepts that you are now using to read my words. And he did that 40 years ago. Yes, he was that far ahead.
    Some key things stuck with me.

    1) Doug is a frustrated inventor. He was frustrated over and over again during his career by people who just didn’t get his ideas. 2) He says he has many ideas that he hasn’t shared yet. We talked about the way the system could change from how it sees what you’re paying attention to, for instance. 3) He repeated for us the creation of the mouse. Said they still don’t know who came up with the name “mouse.” That was the part of the dinner I filmed. 4) He challenged the business people at the table (specifically looking at Andy and me) to come up with a way to increase the speed that innovations get used. He didn’t say it, but his eyes told me that taking 25 years for the world to get the mouse was too long and his career would have been a lot more interesting if people could have gotten his ideas quicker. I told him that ideas move around the world a lot faster now due to blogs and video (imagine trying to explain what Halo 2 was going to look like if all you had to describe it was ASCII text).

    The most interesting writing I have seen on the adoption of ideas is Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point. I read it this summer as part of my excercise in figuring out why MySpace was so successful and the book was full of insight and interesting examples of idea propagation. If  Doug hasn't read it, I'd suggest that he read it.

    I agree that it takes too long for innovations to make it into the mainstream. Ethernet, SQL databases, and object oriented languages running on garbage collected VMs, are all two or three decades old but only started really affecting the mainstream in the last decade. AJAX which is all the rage this year was invented last century. Dave Winer first started talking about payloads for RSS in 2001 but podcasting only took off over the last year.

    We are closing the gap from innovation to adoption but it definitely could be better. I agree with Robert that blogs and other forms of mass communication being available to the general public will only accelerate this trend.


    Categories: Technology

    November 14, 2005
    @ 06:16 PM

    Due to Windows Live, a bunch of us at MSN (the Windows Live division?) have been inundiated with lots of internal marketing and presentations around branding. One thing that this has convinced me of is that we (Microsoft) are totally inept when it comes to branding. The fact that till today nobody can quite answer What is .NET? (a managed runtime? server software? web services? all of the above?) is a testament to our generally cluelessness in this area. I sincerely hope the same thing doesn't happen with "Live" but only time will tell.

    On a related note, for some reason I've had a couple of idle lunchtime conversations with different people on what they think about XBox. Somewhat surprisingly to me, many employees at Microsoft are quick to deride MSN for being a "money losing division" even though we are now profitable but yet in the same breath have nothing but praise for XBox which is billions of dollars in the red. When I've probed for reasons for this disconnect, the answer has been usually one of either (i) it was a "big bet" to get Microsoft in the living room or (ii) it adds something cool to the Microsoft brand. The latter is what I find interesting. Since people started mentioning this I've started paying attention to mentions of Microsoft in XBox ads and websites. 

    What I've noticed is that there is little mention of Microsoft when it comes to XBox. If you visit, you have to scroll down before you see a mention of Microsoft and even then it's in the small print. TV spots for XBox 360 such as Jump In and Water Balloons don't mention Microsoft at all. Why not? My pet theory is that the guys behind XBox know the truth. XBox is cool. Microsoft is not. Thus mentioning Microsoft in XBox ads would actually taint their brand. Of course, if I'm right there goes the theory of a bunch of my coworkers about XBox boosting the "cool factor" of the Microsoft brand.


    Categories: Life in the B0rg Cube

    After the long wait, the list of Original Xbox Games Playable on Xbox 360 is now available. I'm glad to see the following games on the list

    • Grand Theft Auto 3
    • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas™
    • Halo® 2
    • Ninja Gaiden®
    • Star Wars® Knights of the Old Republic® II: The Sith Lords™
    • The Incredible Hulk™: Ultimate Destruction

    Check out the list and see if your favorite XBox games will be playable on the XBox 360. Mad props to Michael Brundage and all the others who've worked on XBox Backward compatibility.


    Since announcing that we've started the beta of our implementation of the MetaWeblog API for MSN Spaces, I've received a bunch of positive responses from a couple of blogging tool developers. So far it looks like there'll be at least six blogging tools users will be able to use to manage the blog on their space after we launch the API. Below are excerpts from some of the blog posts by the developers of the blogging tools I've been in contact with

    From the post Spaces by Adriaan Tijsseling (developer of Ecto)

    Alex and I are currently testing the beta version of MetaWeblog API for MSN Spaces. So far we caught a couple of bugs and suggested a few improvements, but it looks like a good implementation. The main developer, Dare Obasanjo, is doing a great job and is very response to our emails. Thanks, Dare!

    I don't know when blogging to Spaces with blog clients like ecto is available, but we will keep you up to date.

    I'm not the developer, I'm just a paper pushing PM (program manager) but I'm glad Adriaan thinks I've been responsive and our implementation is good.

    From the post 30 Million MSN Spaces blogs ... and MetaWeblog remote posting in beta by Tris Hussey (developer on Qumana)

    Dare Obasanjo announced at Gnomedex that MSN Spaces would be working on supporting remote posting APIs ... and now it's in beta testing!  We got the ping last night and we're testing implementation within Qumana now.

    There are a couple of other blog tool vendors I've talked to both won't mention here since it's up to them to decide when to announce that their tools will also work with Spaces. So far, the feedback has been great and I look forward to further interactions with the various blog tool vendors as we open up more of the Spaces platform.

    NOTE: The beta is currently for software developers so they can test that their tools work with MSN Spaces. We currently don't have plans for beta testing with regular users to test use for blogging on their spaces. If you are a developer of a blogging tool and are interested in your tool working with MSN Spaces, then give me a holler; dareo AT


    Categories: Windows Live

    Last week Andrew Conrad told me to check out a recent article by Adam Bosworth in the ACM Queue because he wondered what I thought about. I was rather embarassed to note that althought I'd seen some mention of it online, I hadn't read it. I read it today and as usual, Adam Bosworth is on point.

    The article is entitled Learning from THE WEB and it begins by listing eight "unintuitive lessons" we have learned from the Web. The lessons are listed below

    1. Simple, relaxed, sloppily extensible text formats and protocols often work better than complex and efficient binary ones.

    2. It is worth making things simple enough that one can harness Moore’s law in parallel.

    3. It is acceptable to be stale much of the time.

    4. The wisdom of crowds works amazingly well.

    5. People understand a graph composed of tree-like documents (HTML) related by links (URLs).

    6. Pay attention to physics.

    7. Be as loosely coupled as possible.

    8. KISS. Keep it (the design) simple and stupid.

    Where the paper gets interesting is that then tries to apply these lessons to XML. Remember that Adam was one of the founder of the XML team at Microsoft and knows a thing or two about it. So he writes

    In my humble opinion, however, we ignored or forgot lessons 3, 4, and 5. Lesson 3 tells us that elements in XML with values that are unlikely to change for some known period of time (or where it is acceptable that they are stale for that period of time, such as the title of a book) should be marked to say this. XML has no such model.
    Lesson 4 says that we shouldn’t over-invest in making schemas universally understood.
    Lessons 1 and 5 tell us that XML should be easy to understand without schemas

    I totally agree with his assessment of the lessons learned from lessons 4 & 5. However the issue of being able to mark an element in an XML file as 'relatively unchanging' in a generic way seems to be lost on me. He then goes on to point out more of the problems with XML [and the Semantic Web/RDF]

    There are some interesting implications in all of this.

    One is that the Semantic Web is in for a lot of heartbreak. It has been trying for five years to convince the world to use it. It actually has a point. XML is supposed to be self-describing so that loosely coupled works. If you require a shared secret on both sides, then I’d argue the system isn’t loosely coupled, even if the only shared secret is a schema. What’s more, XML itself has three serious weaknesses in this regard:

    1. It doesn’t handle binary data well.
    2. It doesn’t handle links.
    3. XML documents tend to be monolithic.

    Now it's gotten pretty interesting and at this point, Adam throws the curve ball.

    Recently, an opportunity has arisen to transcend these limitations. RSS 2.0 has become an extremely popular format on the Web. RSS 2.0 and Atom (which is essentially isomorphic) both support a base schema that provides a model for sets. Atom’s general model is a container (a <feed>) of <entry> elements in which each <entry> may contain any namespace scoped elements it chooses (thus any XML), must contain a small number of required elements (<id>, <updated>, and <title>), and may contain some other well-known ones in the Atom namespace such as <link>s. Even better, Atom clearly says that the order doesn’t matter.This immediately gives a simple model for sets missing in XML.
    Atom also supports links of other sorts, such as comments, so clearly an Atom entry can contain links to related feeds (e.g., Reviews for a Restaurant or Complaints for a Customer) or links to specific posts. This gives us the network and graph model that is missing in XML. Atom contains a simple HTTP-based way to INSERT, DELETE, and REPLACE
    s within a . There is a killer app for all these documents because the browsers already can view RSS 2.0 and Atom and, hopefully, will soon natively support the Atom protocol as well, which would mean read and write capabilities.

    Now that's deep. Why not move up one level of abstraction from exchanging XML documents to exchanging Web Feeds (RSS/Atom documents)? Adam ends his article by throwing a challenge out to database vendors who he believes have failed to learn the lessons of the Web by writing

    All of this has profound implications for databases. Today databases violate essentially every lesson we have learned from the Web.

    1. Are simple relaxed text formats and protocols supported? No.
    2. Have databases enabled people to harness Moore’s law in parallel? This would mean that databases could scale more or less linearly to handle both the volume of the requests coming in and even the complexity. The answer is no.
    3. Do databases optimize caching when it is OK to be stale? No.
    4. Do databases let schemas evolve for a set of items using a bottom-up consensus/tipping point? Obviously not.
    5. Do databases handle flexible graphs (or trees) well? No, they do not.
    6. Have the databases learned from the Web and made their queries simple and flexible? No, just ask a database if it has anyone who, if they have an age, are older than 40; and if they have a city, live in New York; and if they have an income, earn more than $100,000. This is a nightmare because of all the tests for NULL.
    The article ends by arguing that database vendors should add native support for the Atom Protocol and wire format. I find this interesting since based on conversations on the atom-protocol list, it is clear that Google is very interested in the Atom API. Perhaps they have already built this Atom store that Adam is arguing for and will expose the Atom API as a way to interact with it. Perhaps this Atom store accessible via Atom feeds and the Atom API is Google Base? Speculation is fun.

    As for me, I tend to agree with Adam that moving up layers of abstraction is a good idea. We've all agreed on XML, the next thing to do is to agree on applications of XML. We've all agreed on RSS, the next thing to do is figure out what scenarios are enabled by the subscribe model. This is one of the reasons why I disliked the unnecessary fragmentation caused by the RSS vs. Atom battles. As for whether we need to start seeing databases with native RSS/Atom support, I think it's too early in the game to jump there. Heck, RDF has been around for a while but we are just know seeing some decent things happening with SPARQL and various RDF stores. Similarly with XML and XQuery. I don't think enough lessons have been learned from either to start thinking about what it would mean to have a native RSS/Atom store. It is an interesting idea though. 


    Categories: XML

    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 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,, and 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


    Categories: Windows Live

    Dear LazyWeb,
        I've been using the Flickr viewer gadget on my page and there's just one problem with it. The gadget doesn't persist its state so every time I load the page I have to re-enter the tags of the photos I want to view. I know it's possible for gadgets to persist their state because the ToDo List gadget does exactly that.

    What I need is for some kindly Javascript junky to fix the Flickr viewer so all us Flickr fans on can enjoy its juicy goodness.


    Categories: Windows Live

    November 8, 2005
    @ 06:41 PM

    Over the weekend I got the following mail from an RSS Bandit user. The body of the message read

    Have a suggestion on a set of blog entries (or articles for msdn or whatever) related to moving rss bandit to .net 2.0 / vs 2005. I’ve taken an application that uses the xpexplorerbar and imported it directly to vs 2005. I’m unable to compile due to a p/invoke issue (with LoadBitmap I believe). There is some documentation on MSDN for this, I’m sure it will be simple to correct.

    In any case, RSS Bandit really is a better Windows Forms reference app than anything Microsoft is shipping with the product. It would be a very educational and worthwhile effort to document the steps required to move RSS Bandit to the new technology. As far as I’m concerned, Microsoft should champion the effort. Is there any chance this could happen?

    We don't plan to move to v2.0 of the .NET Framework in the near future. RSS Bandit has a decent sized user base, with over 200,000 downloads this year. Most of these users are on v1.1 of the .NET Framework. We don't plan to move until a large number of our user base has migrated to v2.0 of the .NET Framework. Once this happens, we'll consider moving our development to .NET Framework v2.0. I assume this is about 1 to 2 years away.

    I hate to promise anything so far in advance but if I have time after we port our application I will document some of the trickier issues in migrating to v2.0 of the .NET Framework. More than likely it'll just be a bunch of postsin my blog as opposed to a focused article on MSDN. I'm already so far behind when it comes to articles that I don't want to promise any more. 


    Categories: RSS Bandit

    Yesterday I sent out mail to a few dozen beta testers to let them know that we had started the beta of our implementation of the MetaWeblog API for MSN Spaces. For the uninitiated, the MetaWeblog API will enable you to create, update and delete posts within the blog on a space. This means that you'll be able to use tools like Blogjet and W.Bloggar to manage the blog on your space. A number of other interesting scenarios are now enabled by this as well including

    • Photo sites like Flickr that have a "Post photo(s) to your weblog" feature can now integrate with MSN Spaces.

    • Plugins for posting to MSN Spaces can be added to traditional text editors. An example of this is the Blogger for Word plugin

    • RSS/Atom readers that have a "Blog This" feature can be used to post directly to your space.

    There are a lot more interesting ideas one can explore once the API is widely available. If you are interested in the beta testing our implementation of the MetaWeblog API, send me email; dareo at


    Categories: Windows Live

    Google has reintroduced their Google Desktop with a vengeance. It was evil enough the first time around, but this time it’s downright scary. My original complaint was that Google Desktop ignores basic practices amongst RSS readers for saving bandwidth on the sites it is polling. It was pinging my site every 5 minutes asking for updates without caching the results and thus was using an unreasonable proportion of my bandwidth.

    Since a new version was recently released,  I decided to try it out to see if the issue had been fixed since I sent them mail. I installed Fiddler to monitor the traffic of the application and what I found out surprised me a great deal. Google Desktop not only pings sites every 5 minutes in a manner inconsiderate of their bandwidth but it also does so without the users direction. Below is a screenshot of some of the HTTP traffic generated by Google Desktop

    The highlighted requests are requests to URLs of Atom & RSS feeds that were in my browser cache by Google Desktop. I did not configure the application to fetch these feeds. So not only does Google Desktop flood websites with feed requests in a manner bordering on the behavior of a malicious application, it also does this automatically without the end user explicitly subscribing to the feed.

    That's messed up.


    In the post Feeds and well-formed XML Sean Lyndersay of the IE RSS team writes

    Our years of experience in with HTML in Internet Explorer have taught us the long-term pain that results from being too liberal with what you accept from others. Hence, we’ve adopted the following overriding principle for IE 7 and RSS platform in Windows Vista: 

     We will only support feeds that are well-formed XML.

    This principle allows us to build a more predictable feed parser. As a platform, it's important that applications using the platform to consume feeds can rely on the fact that the platform will always be providing information in the way that the publisher intended (trying to guess what a publisher meant to do when there is an error in a feed can be tricky, at best). We also spoke to several people in the RSS and developer community at Gnomedex and at PDC, and they wholeheartedly supported this.

    Hell Yeah!!!


    November 4, 2005
    @ 06:09 PM

    I saw someone reference the Dave Luebbert's reasons to clone Google's API and wonder what my opinion was in response. In my post from yesterday entitled Clone the Google APIs: Kill That Noise, I gave some technical reasons why we wouldn't want to clone the Google APIs for Windows Live Search.

    However, there is probably a clarification that I should have made. In certain cases, there is one thing that trumps all technical arguments against cloning an API. That is when the API has significant market share amongst developers. This is one of the reasons why even though I thought that the MetaWeblog API is a disaster, we made the call that MSN Spaces will support the MetaWeblog API. Since the MetaWeblog API is a derivative of the Blogger API, you could argue that in this case we are cloning a Google API.

    To me, the difference here is the case of mindshare. The Blogger & MetaWeblog APIs are widely supported across the weblogging industry and have become de facto industry standards. I don't believe the same can be said for the Google's search API. If anything, I'd say the OpenSearch is the closest to a de facto industry standard for search APIs although [for now] it has been ignored by the big three major search players.

    On a similar note, I'd probably agree that the Google Maps API is probably on its way to reaching de facto standard and Yahoo! & Microsoft should just go ahead and clone it. If I worked on the mapping API for either company, I'd probably give it six months and if adoption hadn't increased significantly would consider cloning their API.


    Categories: Web Development

    One of the most eye opening observations I heard recently was a comment by Terry Semel, CEO of Yahoo!, where he pointed out that only 5% of page views on the Web are from search yet the account for about 40% of the revenue generated on the Web. To make this even clearer, consider this recent post on Om Malik's blog entitled Bigger Than Google, MySpace is different which states

    Like all community sites that rely mostly on their users to author content, MySpace has had a very difficult time trying to secure high advertising rates. Historically, advertisers have held little trust in content that is not tightly controlled editorially and, therefore, the value they are willing to attach for ads placed next to such uncontrollable content has been very low. The result is clear… MySpace ranks higher than Google in terms of pageviews, but Google will gross $6 billion in revenues this year, while MySpace will generate about $30 million. The delta, which can be measured in orders of magnitude, is almost unbelievable. I realize the comparison is not directly apples to apples, but even so!

    I bring this up because this is where Murdoch’s strategic opportunity lies… in eliminating that gap. Put another way, MySpace has a multi-billion dollar opportunity to exploit, which promises to break News Corp out of the media stock depression that it and all its fellow conglomerates have been suffering. Success on this front will demonstrate that News Corp can tap into the fastest growing segment of the advertising industry in a manner that befits Google and Yahoo!

    This disparity in ad revenue is quite stunning. I agree with Terry Semel and others that this represents a significant opportunity. I wonder who'll sieze it first...


    November 4, 2005
    @ 02:59 AM

    For the past few years my browser home page has alternated between and I like Google News for the variety of news they provide but end up gravitating back to Yahoo! News because I like having my stock quotes, weather reports and favorite news all in a single dashboard.

    This morning I decided to try out After laying out my page, I went to to see what gadgets I could use to 'pimp my home page' and I found a beauty; the Seattle Bridge Traffic Gadget . I've talked about the power of gadgets in the past but this brought home to me how powerful it is to allow people to extend their personalized portal in whatever ways they wish. Below is a screenshot of my home page.

    I'm definitely toying with building my own gadgets now. Matt has a killer gadget he's been working on in his free time that I think will be much appreciated by users. If I ever find some free time, I suspect the gadget I'll end up writing will be one that has to do movie listings. Perhaps a gadget that shows the box office rankings of the previous week and also upcoming listings with information on local showtimes. Or maybe an MSN Spaces photo album gadget in the same vein as the Flickr gadget. There are not enough hours in the day...


    Categories: Windows Live

    November 3, 2005
    @ 07:21 PM

    From the press release Microsoft Acquires FolderShare, a File-Synchronization Technology Provider we learn

    REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 3, 2005 — Microsoft Corp. today announced it has acquired FolderShare™, a leading service in the emerging space of file synchronization and remote access technology that helps customers access information across multiple devices. FolderShare customers will continue to be able to enjoy the service at Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

    Launched in 2002 and owned and operated by Austin, Texas-based ByteTaxi Inc., the award-winning FolderShare service saves customers the hassle of sending large files via e-mail, burning them to CDs or DVDs and mailing them, or uploading them to a Web site. Instead, it allows customers to sync important information, making it well suited for personal or small-business use. The FolderShare service also enables private, remote access to customers’ own files from any Web browser.

    "Our mission for Windows Live™ is to enable customers to easily find the information, pursue the interests and deepen the relationships that enrich their lives," said Blake Irving, corporate vice president of the MSN Communication Services and Member Platform group at Microsoft. "I'm thrilled with the acquisition of FolderShare and the opportunity to offer this technology with Windows Live software and services. FolderShare technology will help customers access their information anytime, anywhere and on multiple devices, unifying their overall experience."

    FolderShare is an awesome product so this is definitely good news. Even better is that they are joining our group (the Communication Services Platform). Windows Live is looking better and better every day.


    Categories: MSN

    Yesterday Dave Winer wrote in a post about cloning the Google API Dave Winer wrote

    Let's make the Google API an open standard. Back in 2002, Google took a bold first step to enable open architecture search engines, by creating an API that allowed developers to build applications on top of their search engine. However, there were severe limits on the capacity of these applications. So we got a good demo of what might be, now three years later, it's time for the real thing.

    and earlier that
    If you didn't get a chance to hear yesterday's podcast, it recommends that Microsoft clone the Google API for search, without the keys, and without the limits. When a developer's application generates a lot of traffic, buy him a plane ticket and dinner, and ask how you both can make some money off their excellent booming application of search. This is something Google can't do, because search is their cash cow. That's why Microsoft should do it. And so should Yahoo. Also, there's no doubt Google will be competing with Apple soon, so they should be also thinking about ways to devalue Google's advantage.

    This doesn't seem like a great idea to me for a wide variety of reasons but first, let's start with a history lesson before I tackle this specific issue

    A Trip Down Memory Lane
    This history lesson used to be is in a post entitled The Tragedy of the API by Evan Williams but seems to be gone now. Anyway, back in the early days of  blogging the folks at Pyra [which eventually got bought by Google] created the Blogger API  for their service. Since Blogspot/Blogger was a popular service, a the number of applications that used the API quickly grew. At this point Dave Winer decided that since the Blogger API was so popular he should implement it in his weblogging tools but then he decided that he didn't like some aspects of it such as application keys (sound familiar?) and did without them in his version of the API. Dave Winer's version of the Blogger API became the MetaWeblog API. These APIs became de facto standards and a number of other weblogging applications implemented them.

    After a while, the folks at Pyra decided that their API needed to evolve due to various flaws in its design. As Diego Doval put it in his post a review of blogging APIs, The Blogger API is a joke, and a bad one at that. This lead to the creation of the Blogger API 2.0. At this point a heated debate erupted online where Dave Winer berated the Blogger folks for deviating from an industry standard. The irony of flaming a company for coming up with a v2 of their own API seemed to be lost on many of the people who participated in the debate. Eventually the Blogger API 2.0 went nowhere. 

    Today the blogging API world is a few de facto standards based on a hacky API created by a startup a few years ago, a number of site specific APIs (LiveJournal API, MovableType API, etc) and a number of inconsistently implemented versions of the Atom API.

    On Cloning the Google Search API
    To me the most salient point in the hijacking of the Blogger API from Pyra is that it didn't change the popularity of their service or even make Radio Userland (Dave Winer's product) catch up to them in popularity. This is important to note since this is Dave Winer's key argument for Microsoft cloning the Google API. 

    Off the top of my head, here are my top three technical reasons for Microsoft to ignore the calls to clone the Google Search APIs

    1. Difference in Feature Set:  The features exposed by the API do not run the entire gamut of features that other search engines may want to expose. Thus even if you implement something that looks a lot like the Google API, you'd have to extend it to add the functionality that it doesn't provide. For example, compare the features provided by the Google API to the features provided by the Yahoo! search API. I can count about half a dozen features in the Yahoo! API that aren't in the Google API.

    2. Difference in Technology Choice: The Google API uses SOAP. This to me is a phenomenally bad technical decision because it raises the bar to performing a basic operation (data retrieval) by using a complex technology.  I much prefer Yahoo!'s approach of providing a RESTful API and MSN Windows Live Search's approach of providing RSS search feeds and a SOAP API for the folks who need such overkill.

    3. Unreasonable Demands: A number of Dave Winer's demands seem contradictory. He asks companies to not require application keys but then advises them to contact application developers who've built high traffic applications about revenue sharing. Exactly how are these applications to be identified without some sort of application ID?  As for removing the limits on the services? I guess Dave is ignoring the fact that providing services costs money, which I seem to remember is why he sold to Verisign for a few million dollars. I do agree that some of the limits on existing search APIs aren't terribly useful. The Google API limit of 1000 queries a day seems to guarantee that you won't be able to power a popular application with the service.
    4. Lack of Innovation: Copying Google sucks.


    Categories: MSN | Web Development

    November 2, 2005
    @ 02:38 AM

    The stuff I've been working on over the past couple of months is so close to shipping I can taste it. For now you'll have to whet your appetites with the information on the list of upcoming Windows Live Offerings which include

    Explore and Find New Interests

    Windows Live will deliver new ways for customers to discover and explore:

    Social Networking. Social Networking features for Windows Live will be based on the people whom customers know rather than strangers who may visit their blog or Web site. Social Networking in Windows Live will be centered on a customer’s unified contact list, enabling the user to find and connect with people who have similar interests, but may be new to his or her social circle. Customers will be able to choose and control who has access to discover and connect with them.

    Windows Live Spaces. Microsoft will continue to invest in services that help people express themselves, and find, connect and nurture deeper relationships with others around the world. MSN Spaces will transition to Windows Live Spaces as Microsoft adds new features to the service next year.

    We have a bunch of great stuff coming up over the next year or so. Thanks to Mike for spotting this list. He and I worked closely on the design of Social Networking for Windows Live and it's a feature I know lots of our users will love.


    Categories: MSN

    November 1, 2005
    @ 10:05 PM

    Today Microsoft announced Windows Live. The official blurb is in the press release at Microsoft Previews New Windows Live and Office Live Services

    SAN FRANCISCO — Nov. 1, 2005 — Microsoft Corp. today previewed two new Internet-based software services — Windows Live™ and Microsoft® Office Live — designed to deliver rich and seamless experiences to individuals and small businesses. The new offerings combine the power of software plus services and are compelling enhancements to the Microsoft Windows® and Microsoft Office products. In particular, Windows Live helps bring together all the elements of an individual’s digital world while Office Live helps small companies do business online.

    Windows Live

    Windows Live™ is a set of personal Internet services and software designed to bring together in one place all of the relationships, information and interests people care about most, with more safety and security features across their PC, devices and the Web. Microsoft demonstrated early versions of several new Windows Live offerings, some of which are accessible at, a new Web site where people can try the latest Windows Live beta services: serves as the personalized starting point for Windows Live services, powered by cutting-edge technologies such as RSS and Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX). offers complete choice and customization for individuals who want quick access to the people and information they care about most., which will be a great place to experience Windows Live Search, is available for trial today.

    Windows Live™ Mail is a new, global Web e-mail service, built from the ground up to be faster, safer and simpler. Existing MSN® Hotmail® users will be able to seamlessly upgrade to the new service. People can sign up for the beta waiting list at

    Windows Live™ Messenger helps individuals deepen their connections with the people they care about through instant messaging, file and photo sharing, PC-based calling, and more. Windows Live Messenger will enter the beta stage later this year. More information is available at

    Windows Live™ Safety Center is a Web site where users can scan for and remove viruses from their PC on demand. The service is currently in beta form, available at

    Windows OneCare™ Live is a previously announced PC health subscription that helps protect and maintain PCs via an integrated service that includes anti-virus, firewall, PC maintenance, and data backup and restore capability. People can sign up for the beta waiting list at

    Windows Live™ Favorites is a service that enables individuals to access their Microsoft Internet Explorer and MSN Explorer favorites from any PC that’s online. The service is currently in beta form at

    Windows Live will be offered alongside, a global leader in services with more than 215 million active MSN Hotmail accounts; more than 185 million MSN Messenger contacts worldwide; and over 25 million MSN Spaces created by individuals to share their photos, Web logs (blogs) and interests with friends. will continue to deliver rich programmed content and provide access to Windows Live services.

    As someone who works on MSN Windows Live products I've seen about ten hours of presentations over the past few months on what this means for us and have come up with a simple way of explaining it to the uninitiated.

    From a practical perspective, when I think about Windows Live I think about three things:

    1. User-centric web applications with rich user interfaces: You can expect more applications with rich, dynamic, user interfaces such as has been shown in the Mail beta and on For the geeks out there this means that you'll be seeing a lot more AJAX applications coming out of us and a focus on software that puts the user in control of their online experience.

    2. Smart desktop applications that improve the Windows user experience:  The MSN division has slowly become Microsoft's consumer software division. From desktop search to instant messaging, a number of key applications that were once thought of as bits that ship with the operating system are now being shipped on a more frequent basis by MSN. With Windows Live, this reality is being acknowledged and embraced. Expect to see more beneficial integration between consumer applications coming from Microsoft and our web properties such as the integration between MSN Messenger & MSN Spaces.

    3. The Web as a platform: was just the beginning, expect a lot more. Coincidentally I just finished giving a presentation to a few hundred of my co-workers from across the company on MSN Windows Live services as a Web platform. This is definitely an area I will be spending a lot of my time on in the following months.

    To meet this vision will require some new offerings from Microsoft and the reworking of some existing products as well. In some cases, this will simply look like a branding change while in others it will be deeper fundamental changes in how the application works. You can try out some of the Windows Live applications today at

    Of course, this isn't an official explanation. That is what you'll find in the press release. Instead this is my interpretation based on talking to various folks who've been working on this and the various presentations we've gotten on the topic on my team. There is going to be a lot written about Windows Live over the next couple of days and a lot of it will be inaccurate or fueled by speculation. What I've written above is as accurate a picture as I can paint based on the knowledge I have as someone who now works on this stuff.


    Categories: MSN