Partnering & Our Approach to “Social”

Partnering & Our Approach to “Social”

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Over the past few years that I’ve been on the Windows Live team, we’ve made a significant shift in the way that we think about where we want to focus Windows Live. Our priority is on giving consumers the best experience possible, which means that we are focused on both building great experiences and partnering well with other companies that create great software and services that consumers love to use. Implicitly, this also means that we don’t need to compete to be the best or the biggest in every area where consumers spend time online.

Starting from our priority on delivering great customer experiences, there are three key areas we’re focused on:

  1. Building experiences where we have a unique, compelling value proposition
  2. Partnering broadly by helping drive creation and adoption of industry standards
  3. Deeply integrating with the largest leading consumer services

Experiences that we build

Our first focus area is about the things that we will build ourselves. This could be because there are unmet customer needs, a gap in innovation, or a unique opportunity for us to surprise and delight customers. Some examples are:

  • How we’ve created the ability to make Messenger conversations more meaningful by sharing photos while having a HD video chat
  • The way that Photo Gallery and Movie Maker let you easily create professional-quality photos and videos with features like Photo Fuse, Panorama, and Auto Movie
  • How Windows Live Mesh lets you easily access to your files by providing virtually unlimited file synchronization between your PCs

Partnering broadly with the web

At the same time, there are a lot of other companies providing compelling scenarios all across the web, and so our second focus area is our belief in letting consumers connect their experiences across the web to what they are doing in Windows Live, and vice versa. This starts by working with the industry to create and drive the adoption of emerging specifications and standards, including OAuth WRAP, Portable Contacts, Activity Strea.ms, and more. Then, we make sure that we’re using those standards to work with partners to deliver great experiences that let consumers bring their contacts, conversations and content from other partners into Windows Live and similarly take their Windows Live contacts, conversations and content with them across the web. Lastly, because these technical integrations are built using standards with simple, self-service terms of use, they are a very low-cost way for our partners and for Windows Live to make this happen.

Deeply integrating with leading services

Our third focus area is the set of very large and leading companies that excel in specific offerings. For instance, Facebook and MySpace are leaders in general social networking, LinkedIn leads in professional social networking, and YouTube is a huge destination for online video. Given how important these services are for many consumers, we’ll work with these companies directly to go significantly beyond the standards mentioned above to ensure we’re jointly providing customers with the best experience.

This model for focusing on great customer experiences —balancing what we build, where we partner broadly and where we deeply integrate— is important across Windows Live. Today, I want to talk about one area where it’s particularly important, and that is our Messenger experience and our approach to “social.”

Evolution of “Social”

“Social” is a somewhat broad term that encompasses a range of scenarios: social networks, instant messaging apps, SMS, sharing content, commenting, and a lot more. Looking back, social started in chat rooms and as a set of instant messaging apps on your PC that you used for real-time chatting. Over time, chat became richer and started to include things like voice and video conversations and real-time gaming. We saw the addition and huge growth of more lightweight conversations as SMS became more accessible and new services emerged to more easily broadcast status messages privately and publicly. At the same time, sharing has exploded; people are sharing more content and activities such as news articles, comments on products, videos, and locations.

As social evolved, we saw the emergence of a number of relationships and services. Messenger focuses on your close friends and family, while Facebook, MySpace, Orkut and QQ have become more general-purpose social networks for all of your acquaintances. LinkedIn, Xing, and Viadeo are great places for professional interactions, and a lot of social updates still flow through email messages and notifications. Then, there are great photo and video sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube, and hundreds of others that provide content and let customers post, comment, rate and re-share. Amongst all of these, we agree that it’s often your mobile contact list that is the best representation of your “real friends.” So while this evolution of social has led to the growth of some great leading services, it has also created a lot of noise where people often miss the updates that matter, because they’re being flooded with the updates they don’t care about.

Messenger as your “People App”

Windows Live Messenger logo

In light of this, we’re not trying to be yet another general-purpose social network, real-time public broadcast channel, or video sharing site. There are great services out there for these things already. Instead, we’re looking at how Messenger can play a unique and compelling role in helping people bridge various networks and overcome the social noise to have more meaningful connections with the people that matter most. To the above comments, we believe delivering a great experience breaks into what we will build, how we partner broadly and where we look to deeply integrate.

We believe given our past experience and a gap in the marketplace, that we have an opportunity to focus on continuing to make real-time conversations even richer and more meaningful. So, we’re bringing video chat into high-definition and providing multi-dimensional interactions where photo sharing and other activities can happen in tandem with a video chat. We’re breaking down walls between services by connecting Messenger chat not only with Yahoo! Messenger and Office Communicator, but we’re also connecting with Facebook chat and the upcoming Xbox Kinect.

Photo sharing in Messenger video chat

However, those “people that matter most” also spend time all across the internet, and it’s important that customers can also bring those activities into Messenger and bring Messenger into those activities. We do this with Messenger Connect, which provides partners with a simple way to bring Messenger contacts, communications and content into their website to increase engagement there, or share contacts, communications and content into Messenger to drive greater reach and referral.

Messenger Connect button

Lastly, when we look at the leading places where consumers spend time socializing, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, as well as email, rise to the top. So in our latest beta release of Messenger, we’ve made sure to go beyond the standard Messenger Connect to deeply integrate with Facebook and MySpace. Not only can you bring in your friends and their updates, but you can also bring in high-resolution images, comment, and post back directly to those sites, get instant notifications for certain social alerts, chat directly with your Facebook friends from within Messenger, and more. We’ve also brought in social updates from Hotmail, so they’re just as easily accessible as the rest of the updates from more traditional social networks. For these top social experiences, we want to make sure consumers get the best experience from those great services, and we’ll continue to deeply integrate more of the leading services people use over time. Here’s a picture of viewing Facebook photos within Messenger and seeing and posting additional comments inline.

Facebook photo in Messenger

Progress on our social approach using the new Messenger beta

It’s important with anything we do that we continue to look at whether people find these changes compelling and to gather feedback as we progress down this path. Specifically, do experiences like the one below help drive meaningful conversations across Windows Live and partner services?

Messenger main window

There are many different data points we could look at, but one that we’re keeping a close eye on is how consumers are using Messenger, connecting it with other great services, and regularly engaging with that data. For instance, how many people are connecting Messenger to other sites including their Facebook social network and interacting with that content?

The Messenger app for your PC is still in beta, and we’ve only released this beta in a small number of languages around the world. That said, since we’ve released the beta, the number of people connecting from Messenger to partner services has tripled and the amount of content they’re sharing has quadrupled. And for Facebook specifically, Windows Live Messenger has climbed to #4 worldwide in total daily active users who are connecting to Facebook . We’re excited to see this, although we know that there is a lot more we can do to drive even greater customer value here – with Facebook and with other great partners across the web.

More to come from Windows Live and our partners

In future posts, we’ll talk more about how Messenger continues to make progress in our approach to social and partnering with other networks. We’ll also talk about how other Windows Live services are using this focus to deliver great customer experiences and partnering with other great services to do so.

Dharmesh Mehta
Director, Windows Live Product Management

13 Comments
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  • @GarethDPhillips, etc. --- regarding ActiveSync and Facebook contacts -- don't worry, we do *not* sync your Facebook or other 3rd party contacts down to your phone as part of ActiveSync.  Exactly for the reasons you're talking about.  So go ahead and re-add Facebook and get all the benefits throughout Messenger including the iPhone app, it will not mess with your contact list on your phone.

  • @CSMR

    The point isn't whether the technology is good or not. It's the same thing with MP3. It's a pile of rubbish, but if everything supports it, it is the easiest to use. Every email client supports IMAP more or less, at least every decent client, and it should be given as an option to Hotmail users rather than complicating the matter by using the Exchange standard which only Microsoft products really use.

    Hotmail might allow for exchange accounts, but that doesn't help with syncing with Thunderbird or Mac Mail or a whole other host of popular devices and clients. Once again, Microsoft missing the point. I give credit where credit is due, such as with MS Office, but why do Microsoft insist on showing time and time again they are not listening to their customers and don't have a clue what they are doing. They're slowly killing themselves.

  • Oops. Sorry.  Last sentence above should end: that most other providers have long since addresseD.

  • Well, another thing that one might think is very outdated is non-secure web sessions.  Most email providers (save Yahoo and Hotmail) have full-session SSL, often by default.  But Hotmail is still just promising that (playing catch up, as TheWakeUpCall calls it).   No matter how good the services that Live introduces, I refuse to use ANY of them until they offer full-session SSL.  Frankly, I don't know how people can use these services (and Yahoo's) so voluminously appearing not to have any concern about security issues that most other providers have long since addresses.

  • CSMR
    6 Posts

    @TheWakeUpCall

    IMAP is an outdated standard from the late 80s. It was good in the 90s but by 2000 it was already superseded. It doesn't basic things like calendaring, contacts, tasks, push email.

  • 7flavor
    352 Posts

    The 30% social. No Windows XP.

  • Can we get an update on Twitter for the connected services?

  • You say 'so our second focus area is our belief in letting consumers connect their experiences across the web to what they are doing in Windows Live, and vice versa. This starts by working with the industry to create and drive the adoption of emerging specifications and standards, including OAuth WRAP, Portable Contacts, Activity Strea.ms, and more. Then, we make sure that we’re using those standards to work with partners to deliver great experiences that let consumers bring their contacts, conversations and content from other partners into Windows Live and similarly take their Windows Live contacts, conversations and content with them across the web'

    I think this is a joke. Hotmail is pretty much the only email system now that doesn't support IMAP. IMAP is completely necessary for a modern day email system, and you even refreshed Hotmail but you didn't add IMAP as a feature. This needed so badly, surely you can image.

    Why is Microsoft always playing catch up with the rest of the industry. Come on, just add that and Hotmail will be x10 more useful, and maybe you will have less people converting over to Gmail, including myself.

    The two main reasons I use Google is the speed of their web interfaces, yes still fully-featured and that they support the best connectivity and syncing protocols.

    Google support IMAP and CalDav, what do you support? POP3? Great, keep up. Syncing amongst Outlook is not good enough. You're supposed to be offering cloud services, but you're still in the year 2000.

  • logos
    16 Posts

    just a few things >>> +1 on Twitter, can't see why it's not currently possible to connect to it from Messenger. Then, there's a long thread on windows live forums >>> IMAP on live mail accounts (hotmail) is a necessity, deltasync is out. And last, upcoming improvements on livesync turned "mesh" again, are welcome, but I'm still not seeing anything referring to the integration of mesh in Windows, like it use to be with Live Mesh beta, i.e. the blue folders and the sidebar, allowing among other things to share without calling the web interface.

    Other then this I'm running the second beta of Live "wave 4", and I got to admit that you did a great job so far, everything basically is better than before :)

  • Love the new messenger, keep up the good work.

  • Albert
    94 Posts

    This is all great work, but you guys still need to figure out a way to filter Pages, and Brand profiles on Facebook from the rest of our contacts (our real friends). I had Facebook integration connected to my Messenger beta for a week until I could no longer deal with the tens of useless listings like "Mountain Dew," "Avatar," etc. added as my Messenger contacts. I particularly fear that this won't be resolved by the launch of WP7 because I certainly do not expect those pages to show up as contacts when I buy my WP7 device...

  • I have just three points to make on this.  

    With Windows Phone 7 coming, I have connected other services to Windows Live.  There does seem to be a delay from adding something to facebook, YouTube, or previously Twitter.  Is this something that will be improving, a 5 or 10 min delay is not good for an INSTANT messaging app.

    Secondly about Twitter.  You mention how Windows Live connected services supports OAuth, and Twitter now only uses this authentication, will we be seeing Twitter Support return to Windows Live.  And if Twitter does return, will it be passed down into Windows Phone "what's new" and contact feeds.

    Finally, with Zune coming out worldwide with Windows Phone 7, will Zune Social feeds be integrated with Windows Live?

  • I'm using the new messenger beta and love it's social features, I'm enjoying the hotmail social interaction, and link to YouTube.

    What I really want to try is the link to facebook but I cannot link this without badly messing us my nice neat contacts list. Now I have hotmail activesync  on my iPhone my phone, outlook and web contacts are 'as one'. Linking to facebook will suck in hundreds of useless contacts and groups which will in turn flood onto my iPhone and messenger contact list - something I cannot tolerate. Ice tested with a spare account and it made a right mess!

    We really need a filter, and ideally a 'don't import facebook contacts' option. This is especially important since you released hotmail activesync.

    As soon as this functionality is available, I'd love to link to facebook !!!