Windows Live Spaces users get new Facebook-like features

Microsoft is taking a page from Facebook with new updates to its Windows Live Spaces blogging/social-networking platform, which begin rolling out as of 8 p.m. (EST) on October 11. Microsoft also is adding a new Windows Live events service to the platform.

Microsoft is adding a new Windows Live Events service to its line-up. At the same time, it it is providing a general update to Windows Live Spaces that makes the platform look and feel more like Facebook by showing users a feed of what their contacts are doing.

(See screen shots of some of the new Windows Live Spaces/Live Events updates.)

Windows Live Spaces users gets new Facebook-like features
Microsoft has been hinting that it was considering a multi-million dollar stake in Facebook, while saying next-to-nothing about its Windows Live Spaces Facebook-alternative. Now that talk of a Facebook investment seems to have waned, Live Spaces -- Microsoft's social-networking/blogging platform --  seems to be a more visible priority.

Windows Live Events is going to be part of the core Windows Live suite, as well as an adjunct to Windows Live Spaces. The Live Events service won't be flipped on immediately for all users, the Softies cautioned; it may take a while before the link takes them to the new service. The rollout of the new events service commenced at 8 p.m. (EST) on October 11.

(Up until today, the Windows Live Suite consisted of Windows Live Messenger 8.5, Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live OneCare Family Safety and Windows Live Writer -- all of which are availble for installation and updating as a unified bundle. Now Live Events is part of that suite, too.)

"This is all part of this 'take on Facebook' theme, " said Chris Overd, one of the principals with the independent LiveSide.Net. "Microsoft is again hoping that the integration between Windows Live services proves more compelling than existing products."

Jay Fluegel, a Group Product Manager with Windows Live, described Windows Live Events as a "social-event planning service." Live Events will allow users to invite individuals (including, but not limited to those on their centralized Live Contacts list) to participate in an event, as well as to share photos and other information following an event. RSS feeds are part of the Live Spaces and, by extension, the Live Events service, so if a user makes an event public, s/he can export information about it via RSS.

Live Events was developed by the Windows Live Spaces team, Fluegel said. The service is not undergoing a beta-test period; the version that begins to roll out tonight is "final." He said Microsoft felt comfortable going straight to a final version with Live Events because it "leverages a lot of things from Spaces."

Windows Live Events already is integrated with Windows Live SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud-storage service, that is currently in beta. (SkyDrive also got a refresh this evening, with Microsoft upping the free storage available to testers from 500 MB to 1 GB and adding an RSS feed option for public folders as part of the service.)

Microsoft is widely expected to integrate Windows Live Events with two other Live services that still have yet to be rolled out officially. Windows Live Calendar, Microsoft's service-based calendaring offering, is in the dogfood stage at present. Fluegel said it wouldn't be far-fetched to assume that Live Events will integrate with such a service once it is announced, given that users already can add Live Events to their Outlook calendar, Google Calendar, Apple iCal and Yahoo Calendar.

Fluegel declined to discuss when, how and even if Microsoft plans to integrate Live Events with Windows Live Groups, the expected successor to MSN Groups. According to a Wikipedia entry (which Fluegel said his team did not create), Live Groups will allow Windows Live Spaces users to slice and dice their contacts into different sharing/collaboration groups. Fluegel said that Live Spaces users "can make use today of the groups already available in Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger."

Opinions of some of the latest Windows Live updates? Is imitation the best form of flattery? Or are there things Facebook isn't doing you'd like to see Microsoft try with its social-networking platform?


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