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Thursday, December 02, 2004

MSN Spaces First Impressions

I've been playing around with Spaces for the last hour, and I am surprisingly impressed. Unlike most blog tools, Spaces runs like a program, with an actual interface, as opposed to a series of options and HTML editing. When I want to edit my Blogger interface, I have to learn how to code HTML (which for me, is similar to pulling teeth). In Spaces, I get to select the page Modules I want, and I can drag and drop them wherever I want. And remember when I said that I hoped they wouldn't have only five templates? That's not actually the case. See, in most systems, we need a large number of templates to work with the general look of the page. Spaces templates work differently than most blogs. They are page guides, or Layouts, seperating the page into three columns, two even columns, one column and a sidebar (on either side), or no columns at all. On top of those Layouts, you overlay one of many Themes, that simply give the page a look. So, you actually get control right at your fingertips to rearranging all the page elements.

There are several modules: Blog, Profile, Archives, Blog list (Blogroll), Book list, Updated Spaces and New Spaces, Music list, Photo album, Custom list, and, thankfully, Categories (when will we see that in Blogger?). You can arrange them in any way you want, putting any module in any column. If you want your blog in sidebar and the profile in the main area, you can (and look like a fool while doing it).

First impression: Out of the box, users can do more with Spaces than Blogger. Its easier to use, and gives simple access to features that take a lot of effort for Blogger users. Major bloggers will not like the loss of control, but new users will be thrilled. Microsoft wants to bring blogging to the masses, and they have created a tool that is perfect for that. Spaces is more than enough for 95% of bloggers, while the other 5% can use Blogger and Typepad, which require far more work to get working, but yield better results.

My point? Spaces has a good chance at actually winning, despite being late to the game. Blogger makes me happy, don't get me wrong, but if all I wanted to do was post and be social, and found HTML frustrating, I might have switched already. Hit the "Next Blog" button on the top of this page, and tell me how many blogs you see shouldn't switch to Spaces to improve their blog. In my estimation, only 5% of them have any reason to stick around. Maybe Google had better create a smarter and more versatile interface for Blogger before it realizes Microsoft has stolen all of its users.

2 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

This seems like a great turn of events for the future of Blogger. Why?

Of course, they will have to compete now. Google will lose users to Spaces. However, Google has a well-entrenched history of competing with Microsoft, and virtually matching them, blow-for-blow. My prediction is that the release of Spaces will bring out a brand new Blogger interface, with many, if not all, of Spaces features, in the next few months. Google has a lot of programming support behind it, and this relatively unexpected development from Microsoft will mobilize them. I would venture to say, even, that Google will go ahead and integrate other services into Blogger, possibly allowing the creation of integrated Google 2 Groups in blogs, as well as introducing new features Microsoft has not yet implemeneted.

Then again, I could be disappointed, and Blogger will go under.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Nathan Weinberg said...

I agree. There is no doubt in my mind Google has to answer Spaces with some updates. There is doubt that they will actually do it. After Google Desktop Search came out, and it was realized that it was an inferior product to every single other company's offering, and especially that MSN Desktop Search was going to be better, we didn't see Google do anything. They haven't offered any updates or any hint that they are working hard to be competitive. Google doesn't like the rest of the marketplace telling it what to do, but I hope it notices where it is threatened and takes action. Blogger is very popular, but if Spaces is better for 95% of Blogger's base, Blogger needs to shape up or it will lose this one.

11:08 AM  

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