REDMOND, Wash. — April 21, 2009 — In the past five years the Internet has been transformed from a tool for finding information to a vehicle through which people can communicate and share their opinions, their hobbies and whatever else they choose. This trend began with the use of blogs and photo-sharing sites, and has given way to social networks, which, according to the latest data from comScore, now account for 11 percent of all Internet traffic worldwide, second only to instant messaging.
Brian Hall, general manager, Windows Live Business Group, Microsoft Corp.
To help people manage their online activities more effectively, Windows Live has signed partnerships with leading social networks, blogging platforms, and sites devoted to music, video, reviews and the sharing of photos. Microsoft announced the first of these collaborations last fall with the rollout of the next generation of Windows Live. Today, the company is expanding its community of online partners, providing consumers with a simpler and more secure means of aggregating activities and sharing contacts between sites.
PressPass spoke with Brian Hall, general manager of the Windows Live Business Group, to learn more about the announcement and how customers will benefit.
PressPass: What are you announcing today?
Hall: We’re releasing an important update to Windows Live that’s really about two things. First is that we’ve added 20 new third-party content partners that you can integrate with Windows Live, bringing the total number of third-party content partners to more than 30. According to the latest data from comScore, there are more than 600 million active users on the various blogging sites, social networks and photo sharing sites that Windows Live has partnered with, and many of these people also make up the 500 million users on Windows Live. This update will make it easier for Windows Live customers to connect with their activities on these other sites and share them with friends in their Windows Live network.
Second, we’re working with three new contacts partners — MySpace, hi5 and Tagged —so you can easily invite your contacts from third-party sites into Windows Live and vice versa, rather than having a different set of friends and contacts on each site. Not only does this simplify your contact lists, but it also gives customers greater security and control over how they share their data, which is a cornerstone of Windows Live.
People love the availability of all these online capabilities, but it’s reaching a tipping point where the bigger challenge is bringing them together in a manageable way. What we’re doing with this update is using Windows Live to integrate the best of social networking and other communication networks in a way that doesn’t require signing up for yet another social network. If you’re happy with a social network, that’s great. You should keep using it. Our goal is to make your online experience more valuable by connecting them together.
PressPass: Who are some of the partners you’re collaborating with and what are their roles in the future of Windows Live?
Hall: Our partners really fall into two categories: contacts partners and feed partners. Contacts partners allow customers to safely and securely invite their friends on these third-party sites to Windows Live, and vice versa. We initially had connections with Facebook and LinkedIn, and with today’s announcement we’re adding MySpace, hi5 and Tagged to our list of contact partners.
Windows Live allows customers to safely and securely invite friends from its contact partners to Windows Live, and vice versa. Windows Live contacts partners include Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, hi5 and Tagged.
Feed partners, on the other hand, are those sites that allow customers to aggregate activities into their Windows Live “What’s New” feed. Today we’re adding strong US partners, namely Facebook, SmugMug and Digg, but we’re also adding some of the top social networks in international markets.
Some of these international partners include metroFLOG in Argentina and Hyves in the Netherlands, and in Denmark we’re connecting with Arto. comScore ranks each of these partners as top sites in their respective countries. They join an already noteworthy list of Windows Live partners that includes the top three photo-sharing sites, Facebook, Flickr and Photobucket; two of the top five worldwide blogging sites, WordPress and TypePad; and Twitter, which has grown to more than 10 million users in the past year.
PressPass: How have consumers responded since the initial announcement last fall?
Hall: We’ve really been encouraged by the traction our latest social features and feeds partnerships have been getting with our customers. People are actively adding partners into their experiences, and we’re seeing a lot of cross-network invitations as customers invite their friends from LinkedIn and Facebook to their Windows Live experiences.
Most of these people use multiple Windows Live feeds partners, some fairly general like Twitter and others relating to a specific hobby or pastime, such as photo sites like Flickr, music social networks like iLike, and social networks for rating movies and restaurants, such as Flixster and Yelp.
As we add additional partners, we expect adoption to continue.
PressPass: What’s an example of the simpler online experience consumers will enjoy because of this announcement?
Hall: Perhaps the most common example relates to Facebook. Suppose I have a Facebook account and a Windows Live account, and a set of friends on both. A bunch of my college and work friends might be on Facebook, but I may have a much more diverse set of friends in my e-mail list and on my Windows Live network.
What this update allows me to do is link my Facebook account with Windows Live, so that anytime I post a photo to Facebook, update my status message or any of a number of other activities, those activities or changes flow into my Windows Live “What’s New” feed as well.
From the Web Activities page, consumers can choose the feed partner sites from which they’d like to share activities. Whenever a picture is updated or some other activity is completed, it automatically appears in their “What’s New” feed on Windows Live.
This capability becomes even more interesting when you’re working with user-generated content sites or vertical social networks focused on a smaller audience, such as music aficionados. For instance, one of our new partners is Last.fm, one of the largest music sites in Europe. It may be my favorite music service but I don’t want to invite a whole bunch of friends to be on Last.fm. However, when I link to my Last.fm account with Windows Live I can choose to share any bands or new songs I’ve bookmarked on Last.fm with all my friends on Windows Live.
PressPass: How do customers go about integrating these partner activities into their Windows Live accounts?
Hall: Customers can go to their Windows Live profile page, choose which Web activities to share, and for each activity decide whether to make it visible to the general public, the people in their network, or just those they choose. When you get to the Web activities page, you’ll see a list of Web activities to choose from. Just click “Add” to choose the site you’d like to share your activities from. All you have to do is enter your user name, or however you usually identify yourself to the partner Web site — for some sites, you’ll have to securely provide your password as well — and then click “Add” to finish.
Now whenever you do new things on one of the sites you’ve added, like updating your Facebook page or rating an article on Digg, those activities will automatically show up in your “What’s New” feed on Windows Live — just like the activities you might do on Windows Live — without having to give your credentials to the other site.
This means people in your network can see those items on your Profile page, as well as in any of the places on Windows Live where they see what’s new with people in their network like the Home page, Windows Live Toolbar, and the “What’s New” feed on Windows Live Messenger and on the Hotmail sent mail confirmation page.
PressPass: What sets Windows Live apart from other online services?
Hall: First and foremost, the respective customer bases for Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Hotmail are among the largest in the world. The most recent numbers suggest that Windows Live Messenger is the number one free IM service in the world and that Windows Live Hotmail is among the world’s largest Web-based e-mail services. Incorporating feed partners adds even greater value to Windows Live because it provides consumers with a central location for synchronizing their life. Furthermore, any new features are designed to supplement how these people keep in touch with a set of friends, without requiring them to sign up for something new.
This is central to our goal of simplifying the Web and giving people more ways to communicate, share and keep in touch, but to do so in a way that brings everything together.
PressPass: What’s the next step on the Windows Live road map?
Hall: We’ll continue introducing more partners from across the globe in the coming months, adding the sites our customers care about most and providing a simple, easy-to-use experience throughout the process. For example, we are announcing today that in addition to being a contacts partner, MySpace has signed on as a Windows Live feed partner, and we expect the integration to be available to consumers in the second half of 2009. The MySpace feed will allow MySpace customers to share activities and updates from MySpace with their Windows Live network.
We’re also really looking forward to the release of Windows 7. Windows Live was designed to work well with Windows, and its integration with Windows 7 will really showcase the way the Windows Live suite of Web services and applications works hand in hand with the PC to create a simpler, more streamlined online experience for consumers.