Microsoft hopes to bank on the popularity of online video-sharing services such as YouTube and Google Video with its own competitive service, which goes into beta today.
Soapbox on MSN Video, which will allow users to upload and share personal videos, is now available in the US for the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers. The service initially is available by invitation-only, though users who want to take part in the beta can sign up on a waiting list.
Like competing video-sharing services, Soapbox will allow users not only to upload videos to the web in almost any digital video format, but also to tag and categorise them so other users can find them.
The service will let users both watch videos and browse for new ones simultaneously on the same screen, something that differentiates it from YouTube, Microsoft said.
Other features in Soapbox include the ability for users to set up RSS (really simple syndication) feeds for videos in which they are interested, and to embed videos directly into their personal blogs. To achieve the latter, Microsoft will eventually set up one-click integration between Soapbox and Windows Live Spaces, letting users upload videos from Soapbox to their Windows Live Spaces pages by clicking on a button. Eventually, Soapbox will be integrated throughout many of Microsoft's online services, which include Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Mail.
Social-networking services and media-sharing communities are becoming all the rage with the current breed of web users, with sites such as YouTube and the online community MySpace - which generate revenue through advertising - steadily gaining in popularity. However, though these sites are increasingly becoming part of the pop-culture zeitgeist, but they are so far unproven financially.