Live.com pushes the limits of users patience

In a post entitled Live.com – I don't get it, Rick Strahl noted the poor performance of live.

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In a post entitled Live.com – I don't get it, Rick Strahl noted the poor performance of live.com - Microsoft's beta Ajax homepage. I too have been having performance issues with live.com, so much so that I've stopped using it for now. For one thing, I never got it working satisfactorily on Firefox. So I was forced to have it open on IE 6 - which jarred with my normal web surfing routine (it just doesn't feel right using Firefox for 99% of the sites I visit, only to have live.com open in an IE browser window). Secondly, Rick is absolutely right - live.com is sluggish at best and downright unusably slow at worst.

Interestingly, this prompted members of the live.com team to respond. Scott Isaacs wrote What we learned building Live.com (or why are we slow)?. He notes that Microsoft is "investing heavily in building very rich, interactive experiences" on the Web. He basically says Microsoft is pushing the limits of web technology with live.com, hence the performance issues:

"I view the Web 2.0 phenomena as being very early in the development lifecycle. I am not prepared to dismiss any approach, pattern, or methodology as we are still in the learning phases. In the case of Windows Live, as we push the browser, we are also learning a great deal. Examining performance specifically - when I look at Live.com today, I see incredible innovation. We are pushing the limits of extensibility (gadgets), reuse (shared frameworks across all our properties), and are taking chances to drive new user-experience standards (look at how we present search results). On the contrary, I also see an application whose performance is starting to become painful to use. The page currently takes a long time to load, especially on the first visit. Beyond our user’s feedback (we do read all messages), broader industry pundits are quick to throw in the towel on the entire technology."

The live.com team also responded in their blog that they're aware of the issues and are working to fix them. They wrote further on the goals of live.com, which are threefold:

"1. The best place to search on the web. There are many ways where this is true today and we still have many areas to improve upon. Today you can add search results to live.com by clicking on the “add to live.com” link from a search result. You can use powerful search filters to offer lists of feeds, and soon additional content which can all be added in 1 click to live.com. Search gadgets make your search experience more compelling (take the image search gadget for example which gives you a slideshow of images you are interested in). Performing searches gives you the ability to have several different views of your results. Take a look at image search as an example and use the infinite scroll bar as a way to scroll through the content if you want to go deep into the results. Or check out the academic search results.

2. A personalized portal. This is the thing we are doing the most of today because most of the technology is available. It’s all about customization and control, themes, layouts, content, etc. Make it yours.

3. Get the benefits of Windows and Windows Live services. Today we have a dashboard with interactive mini-applications called gadgets where you can have easy access to the Windows Live services that matter most to you. We’re pulling together the pieces for building a robust platform where other partners can build and leverage the Windows Live ecosystem. We’re also working on ways for you to be able to easily learn about windows and windows live services and most importantly integrating with other Windows devices and platforms like media center, xbox, office, etc. Perhaps you’ve seen some of the gadgets on Microsoftgadgets.com that allow you to post your Xbox gamer tag, manage your Windows Live and mail and many others."

Of the 3, the last one is the most encouraging. The gadgets (aka widgets on other platforms) really will push live.com forward in terms of uptake, I suspect. Being the number 1 search destination is questionable, with Google and Yahoo as their competition. And number 2, being a personalized portal, is the thing that's suffering most from the performance issues. If Microsoft wants people to use live.com as their homepage (and have it as the homepage on IE7/Vista), making it much more usable and stable must be their number 1 priority -- oh and make it truly cross-platform too, so it works fine on Firefox!

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