Microsoft 'Soapbox' Takes On YouTube

From video blogs to lonelygirl15, broadband has ushered in an era of viral video that has surprised an industry. User-created clips on YouTube and Google Video reach millions of screens each day and now Microsoft wants a piece of the action with "Soapbox."

An expansion of its current MSN Video site, Soapbox enables users to upload their own videos much like current offerings from Microsoft competitors. Aside from market leaders YouTube and Google, AOL recently launched "UnCut" and social networking giant MySpace now supports video uploads.

With Soapbox, Microsoft is betting that its established Windows Live Spaces and Messenger user base will give it a leg up despite a late entry into the market. Spaces is currently the fastest growing blog community and Messenger, thanks to a partnership with Yahoo, now reaches more consumers than AOL's AIM.

Microsoft says Soapbox -- currently in beta testing -- will be closely tied to both services and "deeply integrated" with its other Windows Live properties as well.

"Soapbox delivers on a critical component of the MSN growth strategy of deepening audience engagement by enabling people to participate in the content experience," said Rob Bennett, general manager of Entertainment and Video Services for MSN. "By adding a user-uploaded video service, we are rounding out our existing investments in licensed and original content on MSN Video."

Soapbox handles the video processing on the back-end, enabling users to upload in all major digital video formats. Users assign tags to submitted videos to assist in searching, and RSS feeds let visitors subscribe to video feeds that interest them. Soapbox users can also rate, comment on and share videos.

Like other video sites, Microsoft additionally offers a Soapbox player that can be embedded into a Web site or blog. The Soapbox site works with Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox on Windows XP and Mac OS X. Microsoft's main MSN Video service, however, requires IE6 and Windows.

For now, Soapbox remains a closed beta test that requires an invitation to join. Microsoft says it will expand the beta in the coming weeks and months, and asks users to provide their e-mail address if they wish to join. Existing users will also soon be able to invite their friends to the service.

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