The notion of presence is a fairly big deal in Windows Live right now. Primarily Windows Live users express their presence through the use of Windows Live Messenger which can convey whether you are online, offline, away, in a meeting etc … and in turn can also show the presence of your various contacts. Supplementary to that is the Messenger Presence API and IM Control which enables someone to publish their presence (remember, as defined by Windows Live Messenger) on any web page just like I’m doing here:
Very useful stuff.
I said "fairly big deal" and that’s because I’m of the opinion that there are still a few shortcomings with how presence is implemented by Windows Live. Namely:
- Presence is only published from Windows Live Messenger
- We can’t control who can see our presence
- There isn’t much presence information available
I’ll expand on those points here.
1. Presence is only published from Windows Live Messenger
Windows Live ID is used for user authentication in countless places other than Windows Live Messenger. Off the top of my head I can think of MSDN forums, Zune Social, Connect, Office Live Workgroups, XBox Live, Expedia, MSN, Windows Live Spaces & Hotmail that all use Windows Live ID for user authentication, so if I’m using one of those services then surely I’m online. Right? Why shouldn’t that be reflected in my Messenger status?
Of course, Microsoft are typically sensitive to privacy around the Windows Live ID so a person would have to specify that they are allowing this type of information should be published.
2. We can’t control who can see our presence
Currently all of our contacts see the same status, we can’t specify a different status for different contacts or groups of contacts. This is one of my pet peeves about Windows Live Messenger and I’ve seen many submissions on Connect that agree with me. I hope that the advent of Windows Live Groups will also bring with it the ability to specify a different status for each group of contacts.
3. There isn’t much presence information available
Following on from what I said above, instead of the rather monotonous "Online" a person’s Messenger status could instead read something like "Online on Zune Social" or "Browsing flights on Expedia" (I’m sure Expedia wouldn’t be averse to the extra publicity).
So that covers the WHAT, but there’s nothing that currently covers the WHERE. With the increasing proliferation of GPS-enabled phones there’s a real opportunity for publishing your location to anyone whom you may want to see it. I’ve talked a lot about this before, I see a lot of value in being able to know where my family and friends are.
Similarly, why stop at my real life presence? I remain convinced that Microsoft will be releasing a Second Life competitor later this year so why shouldn’t my virtual world status be reflected in my real-life status also?
Like I say, Messenger Presence can be improved a great deal. I hope we don’t have to wait too long to see some of these improvements.