Now that the new generation of Windows Live web services
has been released, some of you have asked me why we didn’t make any changes to Spaces. Although we did not make many noticeable changes to the service, I wanted to do a blog post about Spaces within the broader context of Windows Live and show how Spaces has had, and continues to have, a big influence on our overall direction.
Our fight against spam
Like many sites, Spaces, too, struggles with the never-ending battle against spam. Improving in this area was a big priority for us, in both Spaces and Hotmail
. Our efforts here are already showing signs of success. For example, during the heaviest period of attacks on Spaces, a spam-tracking website called Uribl
attributed 1500 spam campaigns to web pages hosted on Spaces, each of these actively generating hundreds of thousands of Spaces spam attacks. As of this writing, we have blocked 99% of these spam campaigns,
so now Uribl lists only 15 active spam campaigns on Spaces, all of which are fresh attacks that we are actively working to disable. Very shortly, we will put even more safeguards in place to ensure that fewer spam spaces get created, which will bring this number down even more.
No more comment spam!
Comment spam has also been a persistent problem on Spaces. We are attacking this problem through heightened investment in account validation, limiting the number of comments you can add in a session, and improving permission settings so that by default, only friends can comment. All of these efforts combined make it harder for machine-generated comment spam to get through.
Setting comment permissions
Of course, you can still allow public comments on your space, but by default we limit who can comment on your space to just "friends." For most people, this default setting is going to make it easier to manage their spaces, but if you write a popular blog and still want public comments, be sure to go to your Profile page and then click Privacy settings
. Click Advanced
, (direct link here
), and then you can change the permission slider for “Comments and notes” in the “Who can contact me” section near the bottom:
Now that’s out of the way, we can continue with the fun stuff.
How Spaces has influenced Windows Live
Let’s start with a bit of history. The year was 2004. Blogging was just going mainstream, and users were beginning to explore creating their own personal websites and sharing digital photos on the web. We first launched “MSN Spaces” in Japan in late 2004 as a blogging service, and quickly built a small but loyal following. About 6 months later, we added photo sharing and launched Spaces in the US.
By the end of 2005, we'd connected Spaces to Messenger and introduced the “gleam,” a little orange asterisk in your Messenger contact list that let you know when your contacts had updated their space. This was the first time you could use Messenger to follow the online activities of your friends, an early ancestor to the new Messenger Social feed.
Blogging, sharing photos, and keeping up with your friends
Over the next few years, Spaces moved toward three important goals: Giving you an outlet for personal expression, giving you a place to share photos with friends and family, and giving you a way to keep up with what was going on with your closest friends. So now let’s fast forward to 2010 and take a look at today’s Windows Live, when these goals are still just as important, but are evolving to meet the demands of the new online world.
Spaces continues to be a popular blogging service, but we also recognize that bloggers use a broad range of blog hosts. So we made sure that if you are a serious blogger on Spaces, WordPress.com, or other blogging services, Windows Live is a great companion to your blog.
Try the new Writer
Windows Live Writer
is a fantastic blogging tool that lets you publish to almost any blogging service. You can preview your posts and get your photos and videos looking just the way you want them before you publish. With our plug-ins you can quickly embed video clips from YouTube or photos you already uploaded to Facebook. Try the new Writer beta today as part of the Windows Live Essentials beta
Connect your blog to Windows Live
Connecting your blog to Windows Live is like giving all your Messenger friends a subscription to your blog’s RSS feed. Every time you publish a new post, they will see a nice summary with a link to the post, right in Messenger. And connecting is easy to do. On the left side of the Profile page is a list of the services you have connected to Windows Live, and a link to connect new services
. No matter where you host your blog, connecting it to Windows Live makes it better.
Personal expression for the rest of us
We saw that lots of people who had once used Spaces stopped using it, or used it only for photo albums. They liked the ability to show their family and their friends what they were up to, but didn’t want to have to keep updating it all the time. We needed a simpler way to share.
The move from blogging to just sharing
Although Spaces continues to be a popular blogging platform, fewer people are blogging in the traditional sense, and more people are just sharing. What do I mean? Most people don’t want to take time to configure a blog or don’t think they have enough to say to spend time writing and editing long posts (like this one!) but they do want to share short updates, photos, and cool links they come across on the web.
Your status message – now with photos and links!
We decided the best way to support sharing in our new release would be to deepen the ability to share via your Messenger status message. By adding the ability to share photos, Office documents
, and links, we made it easier to share anything that’s on your mind. It gets even better when you connect Windows Live to Facebook since the things you share from Messenger show up there for all your friends to see and add their comments, even if they don’t use Windows Live. This works from Messenger, your phone (even from an iPhone
), or Hotmail to give you simple, powerful sharing wherever your friends are. We also give you a very blog-like historical view of your status messages and other activities on the “Me” tab of the social feed in Windows Live Messenger beta (or by going to your Profile page on the web). For most users this is as much “blog” as they need.
Customization and personalization
The flexible nature of Spaces gave people a powerful way to express themselves through the use of themes, modules, and layouts. While some of you spent a great deal of time getting your space “just right,” many of you just wanted a simpler way to express yourselves. The Windows Live Profile
service lets you pick a dynamic theme to express their personality and has become the central place on Windows Live to see information about someone, including their recent activity and the services they're connected to.
Spaces provided the first photo sharing experience in Windows Live. Over half of all Spaces are used exclusively for photo sharing. Most of the people using Spaces this way wanted the ability to show photos to their family and friends but weren’t interested in other Spaces features.
So, a couple of years ago, based on the high demand for photo sharing, we began to evolve the Spaces photo sharing feature into a first class Windows Live experience built on Windows Live SkyDrive. We launched photos.live.com
in December 2008 and since then, customers have shared over 2.5 billion photos with each other on SkyDrive.
In our most recent release, we continued the momentum with more investment in photo sharing features: in Messenger (check out the photos tab!), and in Hotmail with Active View (the ability to view photo attachments right from your inbox – see Dick Craddock’s post
), and a beautiful new immersive slide show in Skydrive with commenting, people tagging, and web Messenger (but that’s a blog post for another day). When you connect Windows Live to Facebook, you'll see all the photos shared with you, from Facebook or Windows Live, right in Messenger.
Keeping up with the people you care about
While the original Messenger “gleam” made it easy to see when someone had changed their space (the first Messenger Social integration), the newest version of Windows Live makes it easy to aggregate all of your activities across the web automatically. You connect Windows Live with the services where your closest friends do their sharing, whether it is photos on SmugMug or a blog on WordPress.com, and then use Messenger to keep up with what is going on with them. So now, instead of hinting at updates with “gleams,” we have brought all the information right into Messenger with the Messenger Social feed. Piero Sierra has written a great post
Spaces continues to impact the direction of Windows Live. We will continue to look at how you use Spaces, as well as how you share online in general and on Windows Live, so that we can keep improving your core experiences on Windows Live.
Tony East, Senior Lead Program Manager, Windows Live