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Microsoft Hopes Its Blogs Will Hunt

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, December 2, 2004; 10:04 AM

Microsoft is throwing its hat into the blogosphere with a new online-journal service, a move seen as another attempt to catch competitor Google in the services-and-search race and an effort to woo more customers to its Internet services.

The free blog-creation tool -- called MSN Spaces -- already faces stiff competition from myriad existing services, including Google Inc.'s Blogger, which the Net-search leader scooped up in 2002 (that's light- years ahead of the curve in Internet time). On the other hand, Microsoft Corp. is entering the blogging world at a time when it's already a safe bet -- online journals have been growing in popularity and gaining more clout. Case in point: Dictionary king Merriam-Webster just this week concluded that "blog" was one of the most looked-up words of 2004.

_____About Filter_____
Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.

_____Filter Archive_____
New Year's Hacks (washingtonpost.com, Jan 13, 2005)
Apple Goes Budget Friendly (washingtonpost.com, Jan 12, 2005)
Big Blue Opens the Patent Vault (washingtonpost.com, Jan 11, 2005)
An Apple a Day (washingtonpost.com, Jan 10, 2005)
Microsoft Spies a Whole New Market (washingtonpost.com, Jan 7, 2005)
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MSN Spaces is the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant's "latest attempt to attract more users to its MSN online service and away from rivals," the Wall Street Journal said, explaining that the new service is aimed at mainstream consumers. "Phil Holden, a director at MSN, says that Microsoft hopes the new service will help drive new subscribers to MSN. Parts of the service will be linked to for-pay MSN services."

The Associated Press had more details on what Microsoft's test blogging service offers. "MSN Spaces, which debuts in test form Thursday, makes it easy to set up Web journals without needing highly technical skills. It is targeted at home users who want to share vacation pictures, text journals or a list of favorite songs. It is free to anyone with a Hotmail e-mail or MSN Messenger account, both of which also are free. MSN Spaces will be supported by banner ads," the Associated Press said. "Plenty of other companies already offer similar tools for creating and maintaining Web logs that track everything from workday antics to political gossip. Microsoft rival America Online Inc. has provided its members with AOL Journals since mid-2003, and search engine leader Google Inc. -- another key Microsoft competitor -- offers a free service through its Blogger.com site. The makers of the Movable Type blogging software offer the popular TypePad service, starting at $4.95 a month. Microsoft already offers MSN Groups for users to create their own Web sites, but this is the first time it is focusing on the growing blogging phenomenon."

Of course, Microsoft employees have been penning their own blogs for some time. The Seattle Times picked up on this irony, noting that: "Microsoft has one of the most prolific corporate blogger bases, with at least 1,100 employees running their own Web logs, but the company has not made it easy for users to do the same -- until now."
The Wall Street Journal: Microsoft Begins Free Blogging (Subscription required)
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Microsoft Debuts MSN Spaces for Bloggers (Registration required)
The Seattle Times: MSN Spaces, Microsoft's New, Free Service, Courts Bloggers

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Microsoft's new service "isn't likely to appeal to hard-core bloggers, and some analysts have mixed feelings about its prospects. But MSN executives say the approach should boost the interest in weblog publishing well beyond techies and enthusiasts to a much broader base of users. 'This is for the masses,' said Blake Irving, an MSN corporate vice president. He predicted that the new MSN service will expand the blogging category 'at a pace that has not been seen before.'" The Seattle Times also gave its 2 cents on the future success of the new service. "Spaces won't be a huge moneymaker for Microsoft. But like rivals Google and Yahoo!, the company is moving to offer a broad range of services aimed at attracting users and keeping them from going elsewhere. The idea is that if people are loyal to Microsoft's free e-mail, instant messenger and blogging services, they might be more open to purchasing music and other products from the company."
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Microsoft Sees Blogs for the Masses

Reuters reports that Spaces "was launched as a preliminary test service along with newly updated online software for swapping instant messages and sharing photos," Reuters explained. "Users will be able to customize the layout of their blogs, post digital pictures, create music and book lists, and also control who has access to their blogs." Microsoft said the service will help users closely track blog postings and will be available in 14 languages, the article said. "Among the new features are the ability to jiggle a message recipient's screen to grab their attention, send search queries to MSN Search and track whether a Messenger user's blog has been updated."
Reuters via washingtonpost.com: Microsoft Unveils New Communication, Blog Tools (Registration required)

Not to be outdone, Google is out with its own news in the battle to prove who has better services to attract advertisers and customers alike. The AP noted that Google's spruced-up online discussion tool is a competitive jab at search rival Yahoo. "Google Inc. is ... hoping the upgrades will spur more online banter and make its market-leading search engine a richer destination. The ... company began tinkering with the changes in May but waited until Thursday to promote its new discussion group features with a link located above its heavily trafficked search engine. Google has offered discussion groups since 2001, when the company bought the Usenet archives, but the previous features were more limited and more difficult to navigate. With the upgrade, Google's discussion group more closely mirrors a service already offered by Yahoo Inc., continuing the two rivals' penchant for shadowing each other's movements," the AP said.
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Google Enhances Discussion Groups (Registration required)

Google's IPO Victory Speech

The quiet period is definitely over for Google's IPO. The company is now publicly tooting its own horn over how great its IPO was (something early entrants into the race had already learned when they watched the stock price more than double). Chief executive Eric Schmidt spoke yesterday at a charity event in San Francisco and Reuters and the Chronicle were there to scribble down his remarks.

"The chief executive of Google Inc. said the Web search company was 'proud' of its recent auction-style initial public offering, but said he did not know if it would change the way companies choose to go public in the future," Reuters said. More from the San Francisco Chronicle: "Schmidt said that 'there were a lot of people who were unhappy with what we were doing" who complained in the press about it. But because of the federally required quiet period, his company was unable to counter the negative comments, he said. But Schmidt called investors allotted shares in the IPO 'the happiest people on the planet," alluding to the subsequent run-up in the stock's value.'" As for the proud papa remarks, Schmidt said: "We do know that we were able to go public with the values that underlie the company." Shares of Google closed at $179.96 a share yesterday, up from the original price of $85 a pop.
Reuters: Google CEO Says Company Proud of Auction-Style IPO
The San Francisco Chronicle: Google CEO Talks Candidly on IPO


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