10 Reasons Why the New Microsoft Social Network Spaces.Live.Com is Not for Thomas Hawk

Microsoft's New Social Network

See important update below.

I spent some time today playing around on Microsoft’s latest entry into the social networking arena, home.live.com. Unfortunately they’ve gotten so much of it wrong. I’m continuously amazed that a company with the resources as vast as Microsoft simply can’t put out something in this area that does not suck.

TechCrunch reported on the new Microsoft Social Networking site earlier today here.

Here are 10 reasons why the new social network is not for me.

1. The layout looks terrible. It feels boxy and typically Microsofty. It’s not simple and uncluttered. It’s visually and aesthetically unpleasing (you can see a screenshot of the site above). I’m not sure how to fix this other than hiring better designers to work on the project. Why, for instance, is the “S” cut off in “Friend’s Updates?” Same goes for “pages” in “Personalized Pages” below. It feels clunky.

I don’t care about OneCare which is featured prominently on my page. I don’t want to use their “Family Safety” section and “Spaces” only reminds me of the Microsoft blogging platform which I’ve always hated.

On the larger version of the page the “weather” in San Francisco is featured prominently. It feels very MyYahooish which I also hate and don’t use.

2. Just a small pet peeve, but when I try to customize my url thomashawk.spaces.live.com isn’t available. Seems like someone else is using that url and not doing much with it. Of course I’m not the only Thomas Hawk in the world, but it is nice when I can get my name like on FriendFeed, Twitter, Flickr, etc.

3. The photo uploading section is crap. There seems to be no bulk uploader and I’m limited to uploading only 8MB in images at once. Many of the images that come from my Canon 5D are over 8 images in a single image alone. Uploading photos to this site would be unbearable for me. By setting these limits they seriously limit most professional level DSLR imagery. This means that mostly I’m not going to see anything the likes of Flickr or Zooomr on this site. It’s going to be more like a Photobucket, which is certainly not a place I go to look for or share great photos.

Microsoft bought the Vizrea team right? What ever happened with that? Why aren’t they working on photo sharing here? Or maybe they are. Or maybe they are just waiting until they pick Yahoo off for $12 a share and integrate Flickr into this.

4. I don’t like the abrasive ads at the top. This makes the site feel like MySpace to me. Microsoft should take a page from the book of Flickr, Twitter, and FriendFeed here. When you are a small social network without many users ads don’t matter that much. What you want to do is grow the social network and get huge. *Then* you can think about monetizing it. Let users pay for a Pro account without ads (like Flickr does) or ad ads later. The revenue from the ads today can’t be meaningful or significant.

5. When I tried to customize my space by uploading my own photo as a background, it didn’t work. This could also be related to the 8MB file size upload limit. So instead I’m stuck with Microsoft’s crappy default or one of the horrible “themes” that they have for me to choose from. Why are the default “themes” so crappy and unoriginal? It feels like I’m selecting what default desktop theme package I’d like to use. Nature, Occasions, Patterns, Sports — all that feel very cliparty. How about hiring some cool, hip, cutting edge designers or artists to really create some cool stuff. What about that graffiti artist that said he was a “PC” in the big Vista commercial? What about hiring that guy or some actual interesting artists to design the themes rather than cheap and crappy looking defaults.

6. But I don’t want to blog here. I want to blog at thomashawk.com. There seems to be no easy way that I can tell to import your various other online sites from the internet. In TechCrunch’s article it seemed to say that this was possible as they compared it to FriendFeed. Best I can tell it’s not. I can find no way to link my blog, Flickr account, Zooomr account, YouTube account, etc. to my page on this social network. FriendFeed is doing better than anyone else out there in aggregating web presence right now. Microsoft, how hard is it to simply copy FriendFeed in this department? Why show me a “blogging” section on my space area if I’m never going to use it?

7. Inviting Friends needs work. What’s a social network without your friends right? Microsoft has a leg up here because you can import all of your Windows Live Messenger contacts into the site, but other than this there is no easy way to invite your contacts to your page. Other than this you can only manually enter an email address to send out an invitation. Microsoft should also allow you to access your gmail, yahoomail, or mail client app address book to mass invite or select more of you friends to invite if you’d like.

8. The “Events” section is lame. I went to the events section to learn about some cool events around me in the SF Bay area and guess what there are none. Why not use upcoming.org’s API to feed into here or eventful or meetup.com or whoever to give me some instant interesting things to think about doing?

9. According to the video on TechCrunch it looks like the new Microsoft Social Network is supposed to allow you to aggregate other places on the internet where you have a presence on your Windows live page. Several times in the video Microsoft points to something called “Web Activities” and “Add Websites.” The problem is that in real life this functionality seems to be non-existent on the site. I may just be stupid, but after spending about an hour playing around with the site today I simply could find no easy way to add outside websites where I have a presence. In typical Microsoft fashion I went to the help menu and typed in the phrase “activities” in the search box (seeing how they used the “activities” word over and over again in their video) and of course it still did not show me how to add activities to my page. It did, however, offer me up a little write up on how to close my or my child’s accounts. Something that I really had no interest in learning about.

10. Where’s my profile page? There seems to be no easy way to see what your profile page looks like and no easy url to send to your contacts to show them your presence on this social network.

It seems to me like Microsoft needs to go back to the drawing board with this one. Then again maybe like a lot of other Microsoft products they just feel that they are big enough to shove crap at people and people will use it anyways. Whatever the case, as someone who is very active on social networks, I’ll doubt I’ll be active on this one. At least until I can learn how to do the most basic things that a social network ought to allow.

Update: Ok, now I’m feeling kind of lame. It seems this might be the old Microsoft Live Social Network that I just reviewed. Tom Conrad just said the new version won’t be out until December.

I wish the Microsoft video on TechCrunch hadn’t said: “You can start adding updates from your web activities to Windows Live today. All you need is an id. Get started at home.live.com.” Turns out “today” really might mean a few weeks down the road.

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10 comments on “10 Reasons Why the New Microsoft Social Network Spaces.Live.Com is Not for Thomas Hawk
  1. Tom Conrad says:

    Hey Thomas,

    The new version of Windows Live doesn’t go live until the first week in December… unless you’re logged into the private beta, I suspect you may be evaluating the current (and very different) version. For example, the screenshot above is from the old version.

    Not really making a case for the new version… just want to make sure you’re responding to the new stuff.

  2. Jordan says:

    Thomas,

    You probably didn’t realize it, but the version of Live Home, Live Spaces, etc. that is currently available (and shown in your screenshot) is the current version. The version that TechCrunch is reporting on is the next version, Wave 3. This is being released sometime later next year.

    Give it a month or so and try again; you may have a different take in the upcoming improvements.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think that your retraction should be more than a few lines way at the bottom of the page. Maybe you should just remove this whole post. While you’re at it why not let more professional bloggers/journalists write these stories – you know people who actually check their fatcs before hitting ‘publish’.

    You give blogging a bad name.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Anonymous, maybe Microsoft shouldn’t release promotional videos on their product saying “you can start adding updates from your web activities to Windows Live today,” when what they really mean is that you can start adding updates from your web activities to Windows Live come next month.”

    If the promotional video had been more truthful about the release of the service then I wouldn’t have wasted time writing the article at all.

  5. Why do I have this gut feeling you may be able to post the same article after the new release.

    The whole thing just seems like a big me too project. prove me wrong Microsoft.

    Rosh
    newmediaphotographer

  6. darmik says:

    We have also just launched an alpha of our hybrid Social Network.
    Unlike Microsoft and Facebook and Myspace and Ning; we are Open Source and we also give back to our “Community”

    adelph.us can be found here http://www.adelph.us
    Some of the feature of adelph.us are:

    A top of the line Read/Write/Re Publish feed reader.
    A stand alone advertising Network
    Integrated Classifieds Service
    Integrated Music Store (Using SongBird)
    Integrated Application Store
    Integrated Products sells and Product affiliate sells service
    Integrated e-commerce service (Handles Micro Payments and Revenue Sharing)
    Super Distributed Micro Blogging Service “Conversations”

    We are also in the process of launching a hosted service

  7. Omar Shahine says:

    Thomas,

    You should be angry at Techcrunch not Microsoft. The video they posted were part of the “press materials” not anything that Microsoft posted to any of our public PR materials. The fact that Techcrunch posted that video and it said “today” is because those folks were given access to the private beta and they could literally use the features “Today” whenever that was for them.

    I hope that makes sense.

    Sorry you were confused about the announcement. All the other press made it clear that this stuff was not yet shipping.

  8. Thomas Hawk says:

    Yeah, Omar, it’s my bad. I should have done more research on it before posting. I wish I had. I’ll re-review the real site once it’s out. The video confused me but that’s not really an excuse for me not to dig further, read the official MSFT press release, etc.

  9. Quikboy says:

    I don’t like the social networking aspect of Spaces, either, but I feel like I should reply to each of your 10 points:

    1. Well I hate Home.live.com too. The original look got scrapped for this mess.

    2. Sorry, but that’s how life is. I check out who had it, and it doesn’t surprise me. There’s a bazillion of empty Spaces.

    3. Agree

    4. I really agree with this. Banner ads at the top, suck. However, they are getting rid of advertising (on Spaces at least), and you could always get rid of ads by having a Hotmail Plus account.

    5. Well I’ve seen Spaces with personal photo backgrounds, so I don’t know what to say. Yes, themes could be MUCH MUCH better than these sterile ones.

    6. Coming in Wave 3 update

    7. Yes, they need to make it easier to sign-in to other accounts and inviting friends or seeing if friends already exist on Spaces.

    8. Events is NOT a place to look up for events. It’s more like Evite, where you can plan an event, with a discussion board, replies, photos, etc.

    9. Coming soon in Wave 3

    10. Coming soon in Wave 3

    Feel free to hit me up anytime, on anything Windows Live. I’ve been through them all, and I’m even working on my own blog posts about Spaces. Glad to hear what you’ve got to say.

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