Martha's New Invitation: Your Space, Or Hers?

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By Frank Ahrens
Sunday, May 28, 2006

Last week, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. -- which already has magazines, a radio show, a television show and a line of furnishings featuring the eponymous founder and domestic expert -- said it would enter the social network space by launching a site in late 2007. It will be similar to MySpace.com, the social network site hugely popular with teens and young adults, but aimed at adult women, the company said.

The company said . . . okay, that's it. I can't hold a straight face any longer in this story. The mind reels with the comic possibilities:

· It'll be just like MySpace. That is, if your space happens to be an 8-by-10 jail cell in a federal pen.

· Why do I have a feeling it will be a lot more like Martha's Space than MySpace?

· Further, how will she stand all of those people in her space, clicking on things, looking at things, getting things out of place? You people ever hear of viruses? Stop touching everything!

· And then there is this: 2007? I bet a couple smart guys in a garage could set up a decent-looking social network site in about a month. By the time Stewart hangs her site, social networks could be so 2006. We may be into anti-social networks by then, which is what I'm looking forward to, as in, KeepOutOfMySpace.com. (Note to self: Register that, quick.)

MySpace, which was bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. last year, has some 70 million users and is growing. The idea is a proven one. Talking to investors last week, Susan Lyne -- the chief executive of Stewart's company (and one of the ABC executives who got fired after green-lighting "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost") -- said Stewart's social network site will be aimed at the 25-to-45-year-old female set, and will let them swap such things as pictures, recipes and scrapbook-making tips.

A friend of mine worked in Stewart's shop a few years ago and said that, after one party at the company's Manhattan office, Stewart sent a company-wide e-mail scolding employees for dropping cookie crumbs on the (concrete) floor. Not so social.

You Kids Get Off My Lawn!

Earlier this week, Microsoft went live with its latest version of Windows Live Local, a Web site that is trying to take online maps and driving directions to a new level. Web Watch colleague Sara Kehaulani Goo took the thing for a test-drive and filed this report. She is our new favorite contributor:

The site gives you the option to find a place by searching for the name of a business and the city it's in, so you don't have to know the exact address unless it's a residence. You can choose to view the map so that it appears like a street map or one that provides a bird's-eye view from a satellite image that shows you how it looks from an airplane (or closer -- some images are so close it looks like you could hit your house with a water balloon).

The other new feature is the ability to insert little "push pins" on certain places of a map of your city or any other city and provide your own commentary, which can then be e-mailed to friends who, say, might want to know where to meet you for dinner at a particular restaurant. You can also publish your comments on a particular place to become "public" so that everyone who uses the Local site will see it. There are some obvious privacy issues here that Microsoft says it is careful about and says it will review. (Think: How long will it take for someone to pinpoint where Bill Gates's home is?)

There are a couple of glitches though. When Microsoft tried to walk me through these features using its Live Meetings software, the site failed to find The Washington Post when the Microsoft executive typed in our address. In fact, it didn't seem to be working at all on Washington, D.C., so we had to do my first tour of Redmond, Wash., instead.

Another pain: When you try to e-mail a specific location or driving directions to a friend, it immediately brings up Microsoft's Outlook e-mail. For those who don't use Outlook, like me, this seemingly cool feature is not useful at all. I'm not sure whether this will persuade me to use Windows Live Local instead of my old standby MapQuest.

But at least it's cool to see the pool in your friend's back yard.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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