Microsoft's Spaces Takes On MySpace

Microsoft began rolling out a major update to its Spaces blogging service late Tuesday, adding functionality that it hopes would allow it to compete with social networking juggernauts such as MySpace. The upgrade also features tighter integration with other Live services, including more customization options through the addition of gadget support from the Windows Live Gallery.

Access to the Windows Live Spaces site was slow Tuesday night, and it appeared as if sections of the service where still non-functional. Past updates have caused similar problems, some of which have lasted for several hours after the launch of new features.

Windows Live Spaces will now connect to other services to offer a different type of social networking than is available on other sites like MySpace. The service integrates with Live Contacts, which is also used in the Windows Live Messenger product. Instant messaging conversations can now be initiated through the Spaces site.

With these expanded social networking options also comes security concerns, Microsoft acknowledged. To combat this, the Redmond company has added permission features to let users decide how they can be contacted through their Spaces sites. These permissions would be shown beside a user's profile, and can be changed.

In a move that appears to be designed to avoid criticism that has plagued MySpace, those under 18 can only be contacted by those in their Messenger contact list. Concerns over online predators and their easy access to children in social networking environments have become a hot topic in recent months, causing legislatures to draft tough legislation regulating such sites.

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