What is Windows Live Spaces Anyway?

Is it a blogging tool? A publishing platform? A social networking service? I don’t think it really knows.

My guess is that if Spaces were to launch today as a brand new blogging service that no one had ever seen before, it would probably be panned for its confusing user interfaces, for being cluttered with lots of shallow features of marginal value, for its design inflexibility, and for its relatively small profile of developer features. The same is probably true of Spaces as a publishing platform, and as a social networking service.

This is a failure for all three groups of potential target end-users:

  1. Writers (a.k.a. bloggers)
  2. Designers & graphics people
  3. Web & mash-up developers

That’s not to say that the current incarnation of Spaces is a failure for Microsoft. Just because users don’t like something, doesn’t mean that you can’t still sell ad space. But we all know that in the long run, if the users don’t stay, the advertisers won’t stay either.

I hope the folks in charge over there are thinking about this kind of question, because in my opinion until Spaces makes up its mind about what it really wants to be, it can only be marginally successful.

There’s still room in this market to do interesting work that fulfills real users’ needs — if Spaces can come to grips with the fact that it needs to get really specific about its own identity, and stop trying to be all things to all people. The users are key, and they won’t respect a product that they can’t identify with. After all, who can identify with a product that doesn’t have an identity? Why would users trust Spaces to represent their own online identities when it isn’t clear about what it is as a product?

I have more ideas about this, so if you’re someone who works on Spaces, maybe we should do lunch. I’m in REDW-D 1153, at x34537.

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