Microsoft enters consumer Web logging market

Microsoft's MSN division will launch a test version of a free Web logging (blogging) service aimed at consumers on Thursday, Microsoft's first foray as a provider of this increasingly popular Internet activity for the mass consumer market.

Called MSN Spaces, the blogging service lets users create an online journal, post photos and digital music lists. Users can establish different levels of visitor access, customize the blog with a choice of different backgrounds and layout templates and update the blog remotely via e-mail or mobile phone.

"Spaces is like a scrapbooking service to share whatever you want to share with people," said Brooke Richardson, MSN lead product manager for communications services.

MSN Spaces also features integration with the MSN Messenger instant messaging service and with the MSN Hotmail Web mail service. For example, MSN Spaces users can create "contact cards" with snapshots of their blogs that are visible to other users via Hotmail and Messenger. It will also be possible for MSN Messenger users to set up an MSN Spaces blog from the MSN Messenger interface.

Moreover, users are notified via MSN Messenger when a certain MSN Spaces blog is updated. "What we're seeing in the blog space is that many blogs are abandoned after about three months, primarily because there's not a lot of engagement or notification with blogs," Richardson said.

MSN Spaces will also support RSS (Really Simple Syndication), so that readers can access the blogs via RSS readers and aggregators. To sign up for MSN Spaces, users should visit http://spaces.msn.com.

MSN on Thursday also will release a public beta version of MSN Messenger 7.0, which features new ways for users to get each other's attention through a pair of new features: "nudge," which shakes the chat session window and emits a sound; and "wink," which launches an animation clip in the chat session window. It is expected to become available at http://messenger.msn.com/beta.

MSN Messenger 7.0 also has tighter integration with MSN Search via a search box within the MSN Messenger interface and by letting users highlight text in a chat session and right-clicking on it to launch it as a search query.

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