One of the big questions to emerge from the news that Microsoft is partnering with dozens of Web services to position Windows Live as a central point for managing people’s online lives: Where’s Facebook and MySpace, the two dominant social networks?
Here’s what Chris Jones, the Microsoft corporate vice president in charge of Windows Live, told me via e-mail last night:
“Our program is open to social networks today, as you can see by our announcements which include feeds from the leading global social networks such as Metroflog as well as reciprocal, cross-network invitations with the top social networks, including Facebook and MySpace. As we noted today, we will be announcing additional partnership as they become live in the Windows Live experience over time, including some agreements already signed. I can’t comment any further because many of these negotiations are covered by non-disclosure.”
As others have noted, it’s curious that Microsoft could not get Facebook to be a launch partner for this, given the presumably close relationship between the two and Microsoft’s $240 million investment in the social-networking company last year.
The full list of announced partners is here.
In an interview yesterday, Jones discussed the relationship between Windows Live and the major social networks further:
“[W]e think that there are lots of people who are going to use Facebook or My Space, they’ll spend tons of time in social networking sties, but they’re not good sites for e-mail. They don’t have good calendaring. They sort of manage your contacts, but they don’t sync with your Outlook, or your phone, and so there is a value that we can add which is you need to manage your communications. You have an e-mail box, you have a calendar, you have a contact list. And what you may want to do is be able to look at what’s happening, all the social networks you’re a member of, and keep track of it all. And we’re trying to do something that says, you can be a Facebook user and a Windows Live user, that’s okay. In fact, we think lots of people will do that. In China you could be a QQ user and a Windows Live user. In Brazil you could be an Orchid user and a Windows Live user.
“There’s a ton of value in this notion of keeping up to date and lots of sites will do it differently. We just have a view that there won’t be any one site that has an exclusive license to all activity that your friends do, it will come from lots of different places.”
A key part of this is the idea of having a centralized contacts list, rather than several lists of the same people — your network — spread across different sites around the Web. I asked Jones if there was anything in the Windows Live update that would make that easier. Jones said:
“[T]his is a relationship we’ve been working on with the top social networks because it’s a challenge, and sort of a mutual challenge, is we have reciprocal contact invites. So if you are in Windows Live and you have a Facebook ID, you can invite all your Facebook people to come into Windows Live, and similarly, if you are in Facebook and you have a Windows Live ID, you can invite all your Windows Live contacts to come to Facebook. That’s sort of a one-time, one-way thing.
“Moving forward, I think that the industry needs to think about things like contact syncing, and how does that work. Nobody has really figured out a good way to do that yet. So what we have in the short-term is the ability for you to decide that one place is your original, and then invite and import all your contacts in there, and we have it in a very reciprocal way, so that if people want to keep track of all their people in Facebook, they can just invite all the folks from Windows Live to Facebook.”
One complication is the contract between an individual and a Web service. Jones explained:
“You are sharing [your contact information] with me, but if I take it and decide to give it to somebody else, I’ve broken your trust. If the service takes it and decides to give it to another service, the service has broken your trust. And we never want the service to break your trust. So what happens is, if I want to invite [my] people from Facebook [to Windows Live], and you’ve shared information with me on Facebook, you get a request back that says, ‘Hey, Chris wants to connect with you on Windows Live, too,’ and then you decide, ‘OK, do I want Windows Live to know this stuff about me or not?’ That’s your decision, not ours.”
I also asked Jones about the business relationship between the third-party Web service providers and Microsoft. He offered few details other than to say, “no payments are being made in either direction.”
For more details, see Microsoft’s press release (one of only eight the company has issued in the last 13 hours); coverage from LiveSide.net, where Kip Kniskern is calling this “the first ‘feature complete’ version of Windows Live”; and a range of reviews and opinions from around the Web.