Microsoft Launches New “Windows Live” Social Network

Microsoft&squot;s New "Windows Live" Social Network

I got my first invitation today to join a “network” on Microsoft’s new “Windows Live” social network. Here are some of my rough initial thoughts.

1. I was pleased to see that the network offered some integration with Flickr. Windows Live allows you the ability to link up your Flickrstream in the network and will stream your most recent uploads to your contacts on Windows Live, in a similar way to how Flickr does. Windows Live shows your contacts your most recent four photos uploaded. I think it would be better if they showed all of your most recent uploads in a batch (or at least had a button to expand all of your uploads like FriendFeed does).

It doesn’t seem like the “photos” section of the site and your Flickrstream integrate very well though. I’d think it would be better if you could use your Flickrstream to build photo albums on Windows Live rather than having to upload photos directly.

2. Windows Live allows you to send a message inviting all of your Facebook contacts to your network on Windows Live. I’m a bit surprised that Facebook would give Microsoft this kind of access to their network when Windows Live seems to be a pretty direct competitor to Facebook, but then again Microsoft did invest a ton of dough into Facebook at an absurd $15 billion valuation, so maybe this has something to do with that.

Windows Live also allows you to invite your Linked In contacts.

3. Hopefully over time Windows Live will allow you to include more internet services into your Windows Live “web activities” stream. So far I’ve added Twitter, Flickr, Pandora, Yelp, StumbleUpon and my blog. They also include Daum, Photobucket, Flixster, iLike, TripIt and WordPress.

4. There doesn’t seem to be a place to enter a more detailed full text profile. At least not that I’ve found yet. There also does not seem to be a way to build a custom profile url. I’m especially surprised that you can’t customize your url. It would seem alot easier to share your presence on the network if you didn’t have something as abstract as as your profile (that one’s mine and you can add me as a contact at the above link if you’d like).

5. There are still a few places where the web design needs work (text overlaps a bit and some areas of the network feel a little clunky), but overall the site has a fluid ajaxy sort of feel that I like. I’m not aware of any contact limit (like Facebook’s 5,000 contact limit) on the site at this point.

Microsoft&squot;s New "Windows Live" Social Network

6. The site has interesting “category” rankings. Similar to FriendFeed’s “list” functionality, you can group your contacts into various categories. You could, for instance, create various “categories” of photographers: “Graffiti Photographers,” “Neon Photographers,” “Night Photographers,” “San Francisco Photographers”, etc. The site also allows you to “hide” updates by either user or content type. This seems a very close copy from FriendFeed’s “hide” functionality.

7. The advertisements on the site seem a little annoying and are more noticeable than Facebook. The ads seem large and bulky and include animation. Obviously Microsoft is looking to make ad revenue with this product, but they might have been better off making the ads a little less intrusive to start with.

8. You are allowed to upload photos up to 50MB in size. This is very generous and more than most other photo sharing sites. Flickr, by comparison, only allows 20MB file size uploads (which they should think about increasing, especially in light of the higher res files that will be coming from the new Canon 5D Mark II and other similar higher megapixel cameras being released). There does not seem to be a “bulk” uploader to get photos on the site. It would be really nice if we could see some cooperation and portability between Flickr and Microsoft allowing you to use the Flickr API to transfer your photos to Windows Live.

9. Get ready for Microsoft censorship. The site has pretty strict content guidelines including disallowing any media that, “depicts nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga.” It will be interesting to see how/if Microsoft draws a line between nudity and fine art. This is a line that is frequently blurred and I’ll be interested to see how closely Microsoft monitors people who use the site and/or censors their photostreams.

10. Microsoft needs to get the licensing fixed on the network. I was surprised to read in the terms of service that by uploading any content to this social network you are essentially giving your work away. From the TOS:

“9. Your Materials. You may be able to submit materials for use in connection with the service. The service includes publicly accessible areas (“public areas of the service”) and areas to which you can control access by others (“shared and private areas of the service”). You understand that Microsoft does not control or endorse the content that you and others post or provide on the service. Except for material that we license to you, we do not claim ownership of the materials you post or provide on the service. However, with respect to content you post or provide you grant to those members of the public to whom you have granted access (for content posted on shared and private areas of the service) or to the public (for content posted on public areas of the service) free, unlimited, worldwide, nonexclusive and perpetual permission to:

* use, modify, copy, distribute and display the content in connection with the service and other Microsoft products and services;
* publish your name in connection with the content; and
* grant these rights to others.” (emphasis mine).

How I read this is that basically you are granting public domain rights to any media that you upload to the site. If I’m reading this correctly, this is pretty terrible. Microsoft should follow the lead of other sites and create a licensing matrix that would allow everything from “public domain” to “creative commons” to “all rights reserved” licensing options over your content.

If you want to add me as a contact on Windows Live you can do that here. If you add me as a contact I’ll add you back.

Update: The network also seems to have interesting “Group” functionality where you can create groups. It does seem lame though that Microsoft limits you to owning only 20 groups.