Microsoft, the latest social networking contender

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Microsoft is making a social networking play. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is adding social networking features to its latest release of Windows Live.

An investor in popular social networking site Facebook, Microsoft has hundreds of millions of e-mail and instant-messaging users. But, like Yahoo, it has yet to tap the underlying social networks that connect those users.


In coming weeks, Microsoft plans to offer its users new ways to engage and share with their online friends. They can pull together contact lists, set up networks of people and create news feeds that feature Twitter updates, Flickr photos, Yelp reviews and other popular online activities.

Brian Hall, general manager for Windows Live, says Microsoft is trying to create a central hub where people can interact easily, whether sharing photos or planning events. That’s an ambition that mirrors Yahoo’s, and it puts Microsoft in competition with News Corp.’s MySpace and Facebook. Google is pursuing a similar strategy with its OpenSocial initiative.

Hall underscored that Microsoft is trying to simplify the Web experience by bringing together people and content scattered all over the Web and across personal computers, phones and other devices. Having one central place to organize and manage information relieves some of the social networking fatigue people are experiencing, he said. To that end, Microsoft formed partnerships with a number of companies including LinkedIn, Photobucket and Twitter.

-- Jessica Guynn

Windows Live profile page screen shot by Microsoft