When we first tried a closed beta version of Microsoft Soapbox in September 2006, we felt that its ease of use and clean interface would help it challenge the web-video leaders.

Now available for general public consumption, Microsoft Soapbox still carries the same potential, and it has also beefed up its integration with Microsoft services.

For example, you can add a Microsoft Soapbox video to an MSN Spaces blog page with just a few clicks, share and watch a video simultaneously with a MSN Messenger instant-messaging contact, and use RSS feeds to view videos on a TV connected to a Media Center PC in full screen. Expect some sort of Zune or Xbox 360 Live integration next.

Despite Microsoft's promotion of its rival Silverlight technology, Soapbox uses Flash 8.0 to encode videos. A Microsoft spokesperson did say that the company will likely be adopting Silverlight for Soapbox at some point in the future. Soapbox lets you upload a large variety of formats (including QuickTime and Xvid), and videos also played back under OS X, in both Firefox and Safari.

Uploading our test file was speedy (about 1 minute), and it was live some 10 minutes later. Video quality was excellent for a Flash video; Microsoft's encoding process seemed to handle the third clip in our test video better than most other sites.

When you watch a video on Soapbox, it's added to a playlist of 20 recently watched videos. This playlist automatically appears as a stylish thumbnail overlay on your video (an easy, although not perfect, way to create a playlist). Overall, the embedded Soapbox player is one of the best-looking we saw (it does place a watermark in the top-right corner of your video). Our one gripe: you can watch a video in full-screen mode from the Soapbox site itself, but the embedded Soapbox player lacks this option.

Microsoft Soapbox: Specs

  • Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Mac OS X v10.4
  • 1GHz processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • Adobe Flash Player 8 or later
  • screen resolution of 1024x768 or higher and a 256-colour video card
  • Windows Internet Explorer 6.0 or later with JavaScript enabled, or Firefox 2.0 or later
  • a 16-bit sound card
  • Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Mac OS X v10.4
  • 1GHz processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • Adobe Flash Player 8 or later
  • screen resolution of 1024x768 or higher and a 256-colour video card
  • Windows Internet Explorer 6.0 or later with JavaScript enabled, or Firefox 2.0 or later
  • a 16-bit sound card

OUR VERDICT

Soapbox integrates well with Microsoft products like MSN Messenger, but unlike with most video-sharing rivals, embedded video can't be viewed in full-screen mode.

Find the best price