Live Folders cometh!
For those of you that don’t read the same RSS feeds as me, Live Folders is now available as a limited beta to the first 5000 people to apply. This means that 5000 people can upload files but anyone in the world can download the public-facing ones. Luckily for me I managed to get in as one of the 5000 and my first use of it has been to make available the video from my blog entry "Consuming Web Services in SSIS 2008" from a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a screenshot of that publicly available file:
I previously made some predictions about how the Live Folders service would evolve and now that I have used the service I have some suggestions about how they could improve it:
- The most requested feature so far is the ability to sync this cloud storage service with conventional storage on our own hardware and I would put that top of my list too. Given Microsoft’s push for software+services I can safely say this will definately happen and I’m virtually certain that a rebadged and updated version of FolderShare will be part of it. This should enable seamless dragging and dropping between local folders and live folders using the tools we are all familiar with (e.g. Windows Explorer).
- The interface is still a little clunky (for want of a better word). I am surprised that they haven’t leveraged AJAX to give us a right-click menu identical to that in Windows and I would expect that functionality to come soon.
- More on copying the Windows interface. Vista allows us to view the contents of folders as tiles, in a list, details, thumbnails, small icons, medium icons, large icons or extra large icons. I’d like the same in Live Folders.
- I’m surprised that when we are uploading a file we’re not able to do anything else (such as uploading another file). Compare this to YouTube and SoapBox which both allow you to do other activity while a file is uploading.
- There is no search mechanism for public folders. I’d like there to be one.
- Give us a web gadget that enables us to view the contents of our Live Folders from our Live Space, Live.com homepage or iGoogle homepage. Perhaps even give us a Pageflakes widget.
- Allow for tagging of files to enable easier searching of public folders for alike files.
- Live Messenger/Live Contacts allows us to define groups into which we can group our contacts. I want the ability to specify that one of these groups could have access to a shared folder rather than having to list every person individually. If you think about it, this is exactly how groups and users work in Active Directory.
- People that work for the same company should have access to a set of live folders via the Office Live service.
- I want to see statistics on my folders/files that are shared or public. Statistics such as how many people have looked at the file/folder and how many people have downloaded the file.In the case of shared folders I would like to know who those people are.
- As you can see from the screenshot above Microsoft will be displaying advertisments on Live Folders. As I see it, it is the user that is driving people to the page therefore there should be an option for the user to receive revenue via the Microsoft Affiliates Network.
- Users may want to move files to different locations in their Live Folders but this will be a problem if links already exist in emails or out on the internet that point to the old location. Hence, I’d like to have a mechanism for redirection.
- Navigate folders using a treeview
Live Folders beta was announced in concert with Live Photo Gallery beta and is talked about in this announcement from Chris Jones. I heard Chris speak during the MVP Summit in March 2007 about the future of Windows Live and he roused my interest to such a point that I have been talking voraciously on this blog about Windows Live ever since. Perennial Microsoft observer Joe Wilcox also read the announcement and commented on the Live Folders beta and Live Photo Gallery beta in his blog entry Live Lives, But How Well?. In that post he makes an interesting point about how Microsoft should leverage other web APIs (he uses Flickr as an example) in addition to rolling their own to try and compete. Its an interesting perspective and one that I am undecided on but it leads me to talk about the main reason why I am so enthusisatic about Windows Live services.
Specifically, it is the Windows Live ID in conjunction with Microsoft’s sheer scale and breadth of services. I hate having to go to different online services that require me to login, and thus remember different username/password combinations, in order to get all the services that I am interested in. I just want to use a single login. Thus, the fact that the Windows Live ID unlocks more services than any other username/password in the world means that it is an obvious choice for me to use it. This is why (even given recent problems) I will use Soapbox rather than Youtube, Hotmail rather than GMail, Live Q&A rather than Yahoo Answers, Live Messenger rather than Yahoo Messenger and Live.com rather than iGoogle. And don’t forget its not just Microsoft-badged services; Expedia for example allows me to login using my Windows Live ID as well. I love Flickr’s service (as I have said before) but if Microsoft provide a comparable service then I will undoubtedly migrate to it – that means one less username/password to maintain (plus Flickr costs me money). Oh, and did I mention that my Windows Live ID gets me into all the online services that I need for my day job such as the MSDN Forums and SQL Server Connect?
I know I’m probably in the minority with my desire to get all my online services using a single username/password but y’know, that’s just me. I know most others will be different.
UPDATE: You could do worse than read Windows Live Program Manager Yaron Goland’s blog entry here where he talks about Windows Live services interoperating with everything else. He says "…for us to succeed we have to convince users to keep some of their data/services with us and then make it brain dead easy to connect the data/services they keep with us to all the other data/services they keep in lots of other places."
Ever thought you’d hear those words coming from the keyboard of a Microsoft employee?
UPDATE 2: Mike Torres has an interesting perspective on Joe Wilcox’s criticism’s of Windows Live not supporting other web APIs like Flickr. Read it here.
UPDATE 3: There’s a really good 7minute video here that emphasizes the point about Windows Live ID being the key to all of this. Its good to finally hear this coming from a Microsoft employee.