What do I want from Windows Live?
Rich Griffin, a colleague of mine at Conchango, is getting heavily involved in development upon the Windows Live Services platform and as such he will soon be sharing the stage with noted luminaries Scott Guthrie, Angus Logan and George Moore. He’s going to be talking about development on Windows Live and is actively soliciting feedback about where Microsoft should be taking Windows Live Services in the future. This weekend Rich and I met up in New York City and in between watching England overcome the French in the Rugby World Cup he asked me to collate my opinions about what Windows Live should do in the future and I’m happy to offer those opinions here.
Interoperability across Windows Live Services and other Microsoft offerings using Live ID
As I’ve alluded to many times the greatest asset Windows Live have going for them is the single sign-on offered by Windows Live ID and the 450million+ active Live IDs that are currently out in the wild. Microsoft are already leveraging the power of single sign-on to make their Live Services fairly cohesive but I want to see more. Here’s some ideas of ways in which Live ID to make different properties work better together (many of which I’ve mentioned before):
- Hotmail and Windows Live Mail (i.e. the desktop mail client) should offer the ability to attach files from Skydrive or, even better, embed a link to a Skydrive-stored file. I’ve talked about this before.
- Skydrive offers the ability to subscribe to the contents of a folder via RSS feed. That’s all well and good for those that use an RSS reader but as Robert Scoble pointed out recently, most people on the internet don’t. Hence I would like to see people being given the ability to subscribe using Live Alerts which is currently a woefully underused platform in the Windows Live landscape. Like it or not the world still runs on email, not RSS (and certainly not on walled-garden social networks).
- Messenger should provide us the ability to send emails from our skydrive or, even better, embed links to them. This should supercede the current ‘Shared Folders’ feature within Messenger.
- As I said very recently most activity committed using a Live ID should be viewable via the Live Spaces newsfeed. Furthermore there should be an API available that allows third-party offerings to publish activity to that newsfeed too (more on APIs later). It would be nice to see all this activity on a timeline overlaid on Windows Live Calendar when that finally arrives.
- Change of status on Messenger should be reflected on Live Spaces too.
- Geotagged photos should be viewable on a Live Map.
- Whenever we build a search macro there should be a Live Agent automatically built that allows us to query that search macro from anywhere that we can converse with Live Agents. (N.B. Live Agents are sometimes known as messenger bots).
- We should have the ability to interact with Live Agents via a gadget as well as Messenger.
- We should be able to update all the information that Microsoft has about us using a Live Agent or a Vista Sidebar gadget. Why should I have to go to a web page to do it?
- Skydrive should be browsable from a Spaces Gadget or Sidebar gadget.
- Photo albums and MSN Video should be browsable from a Sidebar gadget.
- Zune should have the ability to sync with photos on Live Spaces or videos on MSN Video.
- Gadgets from the Live Gallery currently run on Vista Sidebar or Live Spaces. I’d like to see them run on a Zune as well. Zune gadgets if you will.
- Zune should load content from Windows Media Center and vice versa.
- An online custom word list for Office and other applications that use a dictionary via the F7 key. I’ve previously mentioned this here.
- Preferences for Vista (or whatever follows it) should be stored in the cloud so that if I have multiple O/S instances I can make them all behave the same way. Windows Home Server may have a role to play here.
- Most stuff viewable via Zune Social should also be available via my Live Space as well. e.g. I want to publish my most-listened-to list on Live Spaces.
- If I’m watching a TV program or a film on Media Center I’d like that information to be made available on other Live properties such as Messenger. This is no different to Messenger having the ability to publish "What am I listening to now" via my messenger status.
- Windows Live Photo Gallery should allow us to build HD View photos and Photosynth collections.
- MSN Video should allow us to set more granular permissions on our personal videos than just "All" or "None". It should use Live Contacts.
- All sign-ins done using Windows Live Sign-in Assistant
- Share Listas lists with a subset of my contacts rather than "all-or-nothing".
- List gadget on Live Spaces should use Listas lists
- All activity using a Live ID should be audited centrally so that we can view all activity using our Live ID. This would help to identify if our live ID has been compromised.
- Windows Live Photo Gallery currently enables us to easily upload to Live Spaces. I’d like to take that one step further – I’d like to automatically sync with photos on my Live Space.
Given time I could probably come up with a list twice as big as this. I think you get the idea though.
Interoperability with none-Microsoft offerings
Live Agents should be championed as an alternative to having to browse web pages. My internet activity mainly consists of searching, updating information about myself, blogging, reading news, reading blogs and communicating with friends. There’s no reason why all of that stuff (OK, probably not blogging) can’t be done via Live Agents. A conversation in Messenger is a lot more immediate and interactive than browsing the web and for those reasons would be preferable (for me anyway). Provided APIs are available there’s no reason why agents shouldn’t be built that allow me to purchase from Amazon, Expedia and all the rest. Similarly why not let me upload to Flickr, bid at an eBay auction, publish to Twitter (an agent already exists for this by the way), search Google and interact with a million and one other online services via Live Agents. If the APIs are there then all it takes is someone to build it. [As you’ve probably realised by now I happen to think that the Live Agent platform is woefully underused – its got massive potential.]
Other than that there are plenty of other ways that Windows Live properties can support other services. At the very minimum I would hope that Windows Live Photo Gallery will support other photo hosting sites such as Flickr. I want to be able to converse with users of instant messaging systems other than Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger.
The crux of supporting development on Live Services is in making APIs available. Basically anything that is possible via an HTML interface should also be available via an API. Preferably RESTful APIs.
- All APIs should be built on an open standard, not a bastardised version of one that requires specialised code libraries.
- Delegate access to all our live data. Moves are already being made in this area through the use of the Live Contacts API and similar. I’d like to see all data made available via APIs.
- Popfly should give us the ability to build Zune gadgets (see above).
- I’d like to see a workflow-based approach to building Live Agents. Perhaps Popfly could offer this at some point.
- Give us a Skydrive API please
Building stuff that no-one has built before is what really captures the public’s information and Windows Live hasn’t got a great record in doing this; pretty much (but not quite) everything available now has been released at some point before by someone else. I’m a little bit lacking in ideas myself though. So what new services would I like to see?
- Twitter has already cornered the market in answering "What am I doing now?". Nobody has yet answered "Where am I now?" though. GPS devices are beginning to proliferate so I hope to see a service like what I have described here sometime soon.
- I’d like an Online RSS reader with offline syncing. And the offline stuff shouldn’t live in a web browser.
- Live Calendar. nuff said.
- A competitor to PayPal. A payment service that I can use with my Live ID would be fantastic. It’d have to go some to be as good as PayPal though.
- I’m looking forward to seeing the rumoured Live Groups as an upgrade to MSN Groups. I expect that this will integrate heavily with Live Spaces.
I suspect that much of what I’ve talked about here is already in the works. Its pretty clear to me that the interoperability angle is where the Windows Live teams think their success is going to come from. As more services arrive that interoperate then in turn the existing services increase in value too.
Just for a bit of fun I’ve made everything on here available as a list on listas (RSS feed). The list is public so feel free to add any of your ideas up there as well as adding them as a comment to this blog entry. I will continue to add ideas to the list as and when I have them.