Whose new tools are more open?

Whose new tools are more open?

Summary: Microsoft has a browser toolbar. So does Google. Microsoft has a blog-authoring tool. So does Google. One is surprisingly open, the other is mostly closed. Guess which is which?

TOPICS: Google

The other day, I downloaded Windows Live Writer, Microsoft's new blog-authoring tool. It's tremendously useful, and my first impressions were very positive. After a few days of working with it, I like it even more.

It's still a beta release, so of course it's not perfect. The biggest drawback? If you want to integrate it with a browser so that you can highlight a snippet of text or click an image and instantly turn that selection into a blog post, you'll need to use Internet Explorer. (Of course, someone could write a Firefox extension that does the same thing. It would be easy and so not-evil. Are you listening, Microsoft?) But I already use IE7, so that was not a major stumbling block. Windows Live Writer has almost completely supplanted my former fave, BlogJet.

Now, to enable browser integration, I had to install the Windows Live Toolbar. It didn't make a great first impression. It seemed cluttered and a little too insistent on pushing me to Windows Live services. But after working with it for a day or so, I discovered that it was pretty easy to trim it down to size. Right now, I have the toolbar pared down to a search box, a Blog It button, and the Windows Live Favorites button. It's roughly 460 pixels wide.

And here's the biggest irony of all: Microsoft's toolbar is way more open than the Google Toolbar.

I still prefer Google's search engine, so I was pleased to discover that it was relatively easy to customize the Windows Live Toolbar search box to use Google. The Web Search section of the Windows Live Toolbar Options dialog box offers an Other search service option. I filled in http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=$w as the search target, and now any search term I type in the Windows Live Toolbar gets sent to Google for processing.


Google's toolbar lets you search anywhere you want, as long as it's Google.

The Windows Live Toolbar's Blog It button sends the highlighted text or image to Windows Live Writer, which works out of the box with most major blogging services (Wordpress.com, TypePad, and Google's Blogger, in addition to Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces) as well as the leading independent platforms

Google's Blog This! button works only with Google's Blogger service.

The Microsoft blogging tool is extensible and already has plug-ins for Flickr and Technorati. (Did I mention that a Firefox extension would be a nice addition? Seriously, Microsoft, surprise me!) Google's web-based tool, on the other hand, works only with Blogger. In fact, some of Blogger's APIs are proprietary, meaning that no third-party authoring tool can post images to Blogger's storage spaces.

When I looked at Google's toolbar options, I found a few places where you could choose non-Google options: the AutoLink service and the  RSS feed reader both include some Google competitors. But search and e-mail are strictly limited to Google domains. Likewise, Microsoft only offers Map results from its own service (although presumably a plug-in could pull results from Mapquest or Google).

Still, it's noteworthy that evil Microsoft is the one with the most options, even in the competitive search space, whereas not-evil Google has its space mostly locked down.

Ironic, isn't it?

Topic: Google

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  • Market goals

    MS's goal isn't to drive more people to their search option, it's to drive more people to their OS. Windows is the cash (and sacred) cow for MS and they'll do anything to protect it.

    Google, on the other hand, doesn't generate revenue from their Tool Bar, they generate revenue from their web sites (mainly their search site) so of course they emphasize their search.

    So in this question, it's not a question of which is more evil since both are motivated by profit.
    Robert Crocker
    • Don't underestimate search

      Microsoft has repeatedly said their goal is to be the #1 search engine, and they have their own shiny new web search ad system. So they have incentive to not open up their search box, and yet they do.

      Nor do I buy the idea that this is about "driving people to their OS." You can't use WLW unless you already have Windows installed. So how does this increase revenue or profits in any way, except by making the entire platform more valuable?
      Ed Bott
      • Search nothing compared to Windows

        Remember Ed, without the revenues from Windows and Office, MS wouldn't be able to do a thing.

        Sure they'd love to dominate search and get extra money coming in, but the most important thing remains to protect and extend the Windows revenues.
        Robert Crocker
        • Fair enough, but...

          I don't understand how releasing a free piece of software for Windows "protects and extends" (ie, brings in more) Windows revenue, except in the extremely abstract sense that it's another one of the hundreds of thousands of pieces of software that run on Windows.

          My point is that the Google toolbar leads people directly to Google search and Blogger, both of which are branded Google properties and for which more clicks means more money. Microsoft defaults to Windows Live Search and offers Windows Live Spaces as the first choice, but makes it relatively easy to switch.
          Ed Bott
          • The funny thing is...

            The funny thing is, how much bad press would Microsoft get if Windows Live Writer [b]wasn't[/b] open and customizable? Seems to me that Microsoft gets dinged no matter what they do.
          • There'd probably be a minimal take up if

            they didn't allow Google as its the one search that virtually everyone wants
        • Just answer the question

          and forget the strawmen that you accuse others of so much.
      • Bread and butter vs desert

        as crocker said "protect and extend"

        Google protects by pushing their main revinue producer

        MS does so by extending the application base only usable on Windows to make it even more unlikely anyone will switch to another sytem/OS and if they happen to make a little extra cash all the better.

        Both are logical and valid tactics. I don't like MS and I don't like google.
        Hrothgar - PCLinuxOS User
  • Yes, it's ironic....

    and you have to give MS props for being configurable. Because I prefer Google's search and I use Blogger, it doesn't affect me much, but your post prompted me to download Live Writer to give it a try.

    I haven't installed it yet because I read the contract and came across this statement front and center:

    "In using the service you may not...use the service in a way that harms us or our affiliates, resellers, distributors, and/or vendors (collectively, the ?Microsoft parties?), or any customer of a Microsoft party."

    Gee, that covers a lot of ground, and it's terribly subjective. Just exactly what constitutes "harm" to Microsoft? One could argue that mere critical comments are "harmful". Is it possible that not being a simpering Microsoft fan-boy puts you in violation of the license? The way this is currently written it is. And how should I know whether somebody is a customer of a Microsoft party? The way this license is written, I'd be in violation if I were to use the product to write something critical of you, Ed (you being a user of Windows).

    Since I read and respect licenses (which is why I use Open Source rather than resort to infringement) I'll have to mull this over for a bit before deciding whether it's even legal for me to attempt to use it, even for evaluation purposes. It may be that they'll have to fix that Draconian clause in the license before I can.

    Perhaps they could have used a little more irony.
    • Message has been deleted.