What happened to Spaces?
Ahhhh Live Spaces. Once purported to be the world’s biggest social network it has become a laughing stock in the online world as its users (of which I am one) battle through the trials and tribulations of poor performance, comment posting errors and endless endless spam. With the upcoming release of Windows Live wave 3 we see a shift in emphasis away from Spaces as a social networking hub to being a bit part player in an over-arching strategy of Windows Live becoming an aggregator of all of a person’s online activity. Indeed Microsoft don’t even consider Windows Live to be a social network anymore so says Windows Live General Manager Brian Hall:
“I’m happy to tell you that we’re not creating “yet another social network”. we’re building more ways to keep in touch w/ the people you already have if you’re a Windows Live Messenger or Windows live Hotmail customer”
Just to emphasize the point, take a look at where Spaces now appears in the Windows Live navbar. Its not even on the first-level, its been relegated to a submenu in favour of the three ‘P’s; Profile, People and Photos:
It even appears below that little-known service Windows Live Events.
Features like photo-sharing, events, file-sharing, profile all used to be part of Spaces but now they’ve moved up the stack to become siblings of Spaces rather than adjuncts to it. So what’s left? Well interestingly Spaces is now solely what it was always intended to be back when it was called MSN Spaces –a blogging platform- so let’s take a look at it from that perspective.
Here’s my new Space:
and here’s how it looks the old way:
There’s less clutter near the top of the screen and the “Spaces community” link has disappeared which just serves to emphasize that social networking is no longer in the Spaces lexicon. Truth be told it doesn’t look at all different but the appearance belies the fact that there have been some subtle changes that you will really appreciate if you have used the old version. One particularly advancement that I like is that you can now delete comments straight out of the comments block, you don’t have to go through that awful “Edit—>Scroll—>Delete—>Confirm” rigmarole that you used to have to do. Similarly when you’re reading a blog then the box to add a comment is already open – you don’t have to click “Add a comment” in order to do so. There are subtle changes like this all over the new version of Spaces and its much much better for it.
Sadly I haven’t seen evidence of a mechanism for preventing spam but that will only be proven once the old version has finally been packed away into a dusty box never to be seen again. All the old features like lists, guestbook and the ability to add “gadgets” are still there but frankly they are remnants of a bygone age; its significant that Windows Live Gallery hasn’t been mentioned in today’s announcement.
Probably the biggest advancement, and this is now true of everything in Windows Live, is how everything is integrated into the What’s New feed. The What’s New feed is an aggregation of activity from all the different properties and Spaces is no exception; your Spaces home page is now everything from your What’s New feed that is pertinent to Spaces. Observe the new Spaces home page:
Its very clean, its not cluttered, it only shows the good stuff. I like it.
In conclusion Spaces is much improved but really that’s only a sidenote. The headline here is that Spaces is no longer the centre of Windows Live like we always thought it was going to be; its been usurped by something much bigger and much better.