Messenger Highlights - the best of what your friends are doing across the web

Messenger Highlights - the best of what your friends are doing across the web

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Over the past few weeks, we've announced many new features coming in Windows Live Messenger. By now you've probably played with the Beta, and if you haven't, you can get it now at http://explore.live.com. You can also see how Messenger goes with you wherever you are -- on the new Hotmail or even using Messenger for iPhone.

One of the first things you'll see in each of these experiences is a feed of social updates from your friends, labeled Highlights. On your PC Highlights appears in the expanded window when you are running the new Messenger in full view. Today we want to share the thinking behind the Highlights feed and how we bring together the most interesting view of all of the things that your contacts are up to across the web while keeping clutter away to make sure that you don't miss any of what your friends are doing… wherever they're doing it.

Highlight in full view

What you'll see in Highlights

We know most people use at least one social network and that many people participate in multiple content sharing sites. And, of course, everyone still get tons of social content like photos and social notifications in email. Our approach with Messenger wasn't to build yet another social network or sharing site, but rather to connect you to the sites you and your friends already use. Highlights is designed to be the most complete view of what your friends are doing across the web. We do this by bringing together everything your friends are sharing like status on IM, updates on social networks, updates from content sharing sites, email updates from your friends, and documents on SkyDrive. If you haven’t already, you can connect your services to Messenger now at http://profile.live.com/services/.

Connect services

Now let's look at a few examples of what these updates look like:

Updates from Social Networks you use

Here's an update from a Facebook friend. The photos look great in Messenger, and clicking them opens a full-screen slideshow. Of course, you can also see recent comments from Facebook friends, and your comments go back to Facebook, too. You can also connect to MySpace, and LinkedIn is coming soon.

Photo update from Facebook

Highlights from social emails like photos and Facebook updates

Today, more than ever, people share a lot of content in email, especially photos. One of the things you'll see in Highlights is large previews of ordinary photo attachments from your friends. This isn't limited to emails from other Hotmail users. If you get an email with photos from a friend who uses Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, that will look great in Messenger, too.

Highlights from email content

Web Activities like YouTube and Flickr

When you or your friends connect services like Flickr and YouTube, you can see each other’s updates in Highlights. The list of services you can connect is available at http://profile.live.com/services/. Here are two examples, a YouTube video and a Flickr photo.

YouTube video in Highlight

Shared photo from Flickr

Office Documents on SkyDrive

SkyDrive hosts your Office Documents and is great for easily sharing and collaborating on documents with your friends. You'll see new and updated documents in Highlights, too.

Shared Office document on SkyDrive

Richer connections with the people you care most about

Until now we've been talking about what goes into Highlights to make the experience complete, and that's important because it puts people—and not just the services they use—first. Instead of navigating to several websites and having to dig through your email to know what's happening with your friends, you can just look at one place where people are at the center.

But if all we did was aggregate all this activity, we'd make information overload worse, not better. Instead, we do two more important things: we prioritize updates from the people who matter most to you, and we favor the most interesting things your friends are doing, so things like photos, videos, and the updates people are talking about rise to the top.

Let's break it down. First and foremost, we optimize for the people who matter most, and we do that with Favorites. It just takes a click to add a Favorite, and once you do, your Favorites get special treatment throughout Messenger -- you get quick access to them in the Windows 7 task bar, their presence is shown at the top of your Friends list, and of course, we keep their updates in Highlights longer and show them higher in the feed so you don't miss what these friends are doing.

Favorites

Next, we take your friends’ activities and rank them across several factors:

  1. How many comments does the update have?
  2. What type of update is it?
  3. How recent is the update?

Then we take the results and show the updates in Highlights in two columns – one for updates like status messages and links and the other for media like photos and videos. You can see the media column outlined in this picture – this design lets the photos and videos stand out while saving plenty of room for text and links on the left.

Highlights in two columns

If you want to pull back the curtain just a bit more, here’s a diagram of how you can expect your Highlights view to look:

Breakdown of the parts of the Highlights feed

The end result is a Highlights feed that shows you:

  • More updates from your Favorites for longer
  • Other interesting stuff that your friends are talking about
  • Less of what you probably aren’t interested in

Bringing it all together

Thanks for taking the time to explore how Highlights brings together the most interesting updates from all your friends across the web while making sure you don't miss updates from the people who matter most. Try it out for yourself and let us know what you think – we hope you find us a great companion to the social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and (soon) LinkedIn that you’re already using.

Doug Pearce – Lead Program Manager, Windows Live

18 Comments
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  • I have been using the Live Messenger beta for about one hour now and one thing that drives me crazy is my display name..

    I absolutely agree with Greg, changing my display name to a nickname as opposed to my full name is a must for me. Or at least give me an option to display my first name only!

    Also, I have changed my full name using the change name function an hour ago and after several logins, it still isn't reflected in WLM.

    I am also experiencing crash & restart in about 50% of the cases where I close WLM. Using Windows 7 x64.

  • @cantoris In our latest release, we provide tools that help customers take control of their privacy. Windows Live customers have control of the content that appears on their profile.  While we help our customers control their private information, we have also been mindful that one customer should not be able to restrict the content that their friends choose to post in their own Windows Live feeds – each individual gets to make that choice for themselves. It is also entirely up to you whether you choose to connect another service like Facebook or share any information with your friends on another service.

  • @kevin Thanks for your question. "Highlights" shows you the most interesting things happening with your friends ordered by how relevant the updates are. "Recent" shows you the most recent things your friends are doing and orders them by time.

  • What is the difference between "Highlights" and "Recent"?

  • I'm realling enjoying the new messenger window, don't know how I got by without it.

  • @Cantoris

    - Here's another vote from me. I don't want a Facebook clone either, and I am far from convinced that this latest version of Messenger has improved my privacy. In fact, judging from the article you quote, it's just got a whole lot worse.

  • PLEASE note we don't all want to turn our instant messaging app into some social networking behemoth.  I for one (and I know many others this way) abhor Facebook etc and the last thing I want is for all my Messenger activity to be shown to all my other contacts who are not necessarily "friends".  Please read this article and comment on it as it is very disturbing:

    www.windowssecrets.com/.../01-Windows-Live-shares-your-Messenger-contacts

    Please provide a way to EASILY *completely* turn off the social-networking side of Messenger.

    Thank you for taking the time to read it..

  • @Hojsn Thanks for the feedback. We're trying to strike a balance between connecting you to the people you care about most and everything that's happening on other sites, but you should be seeing updates that come from apps like Facebook for the iPhone.

  • Hi !

    I have a problem with the beta. When I log in to messenger, change the view, resize the window or get an update it has great and smooth animations and fade effects on my desktop computer, but on my laptop it does not have any of those.

    I reinstalled Windows, got all of the updates, updated directx and my video driver, but still nothing. My messenger does not have any of those fancy animations. I have an intel x3100 graphic card in my laptop, it fully supports aero. I tried it on my grilfriends computer ( intel x4500 ) and it uses the animations.

    Is this a bug or what ?

    I saw the leaked versions and those were using the animations even with x3100. Is there a way to turn them on on my laptop or I have to wait for an update ?

  • captainjy
    14 Posts

    I can't say it enough, please link Live Sync, Office Live and Skydrive together.  The current offering is overly confusing!  I should be able to sync to machines, open Office Live docs and access Skydrive from any application.  They way it is now say with Office 2010, I can only open and save docs to Skydrive.  Doesn't make any sense.

  • Jagannath
    11 Posts

    @Alex  Thanks for the info.

  • GregW17
    11 Posts

    I still want to keep my display name... What's so bad about not showing your real name in Messenger?

  • @Jose the black box you-tube video problem is a known issue, definitely seen it come up on the forums already: windowslivehelp.com/thread.aspx

  • @Jagannath As to real forums to discuss the beta, you should hit up windowslivehelp.com/forums.aspx . There folks from the products and the community are talking about thoughts/issues with the beta all the time. I agree feedback.live.com isn't a place to have any kind of discussion.

  • Hojsn
    10 Posts

    Just a short suggestion on the facebook integration with the social activities screen - still it's just showin up "native" facebook apps postings like status updates or video postings - but none of the external apps shows up - like Windows Live Messenger updates oder Facebook for iPhone status updates - will this be changed? I didn't figure out a way to get ALL the information I got on my facebook home page into WLM

  • @leoberto WLMessenger 2011 used to have Twitter integration until  it was recently pulled out for a temporary time ... I hope this service comes back soon

    i have a question for you @Douglas .. about the public beta of WLMessenger .. is it already possible to watch YouTube videos inside the application? I'm asking this because I always get black boxes instead of YT vids as you can see on the following picture link http://bit.ly/9Se6CE

    Again, I'm using the beta version (15.3.2804.607)

    Thanks

  • I really would like to see some kind of Twitter's integration on Messenger. Would be great to see Twipic photos, for example, without having  to click on a link and open the browser.

    Also, use the Share space to post the updates direct to my Twitter.

    Tumblr is also a very nice service that could be totally awesome to be integrated into Messenger.

  • Jagannath
    11 Posts

    Could someone please clarify me how these social updates work? It's disappointing to be in confused state after having used windows live for 3 years.

    Today  I uploaded a photo album in skydrive.

    Shared among few people. Using Edit Permissions.

    Now, login to the mail id to which I shared the album.

    Click on "Recent" link under Messenger Social. [ In Windows Live Home page ]

    No update on my album. [ After 17 minutes .. at the time of this writing ]

    I goto another mail id and don't see the updates.

    I don't know that we need to struggle hard to let others know that we are posting comments, updating albums.

    One positive note is, the updates are visible in facebook. My friends in facebook are informed about the updates from Windows live to facebook. But, the ones in windows live are not informed.

    I hope I am missing some checkbox, or my friends are missing some settings.

    Another disappointment. There is no forum to discuss these issues other than posting comments here. Don't tell me that feedback.live.com is the forum. One day I posted some issue and got a response that not to use Beta software if I don't care about my personal information. Believe me that is what I got as the response.