While everyone has been dissecting the Google Me rumor, I’ve been taking a look at Microsoft’s Windows Live Wave 4. Here are a few key features with my thoughts on how they contrast with Google Buzz.
User Base ~300 million
Google tried to leverage its Gmail user base when it launched Buzz. What ensued was a privacy nightmare. Microsoft has had no such issues when leveraging its Instant Messaging user base.
Windows Messenger has a user base of 299 million, compared to Gmail’s 173 million. I also think that a greater proportion of Windows Messenger users will actively use its social features than the proportion of Gmail users who actively use Buzz.
Open Standards Support: Activity Streams
It’s difficult to read any Buzz propaganda without encountering the mention of Open Standards.
Windows Live uses Activity Streams-compliant feeds from Facebook, MySpace, and a dozen other partners.
Superior Privacy Settings
Read this post from the Inside Windows Live blog for a comprehensive look at the privacy options. Here are a couple of screenshots:
Not only are the options very granular to a deep level, they’re presented in a very intuitive, easy-to-understand fashion. If you customize your settings to an intricate level, you can also quickly view a Friend’s profile and see exactly what he will see from your updates.
Commitment to Data Portability
…if you would like to access your Windows Live data from a different third party service, or even take your data completely to another service, you should be able to do that. To enable this, we give you ways to export your data from Windows Live into common formats, so that you can import it to wherever you like…
Developers and third-party applications can use Live ID for authentication, and use Public APIs for accessing public information.
Aggregating Other Social Networks & Web Services
At last count in Nov 2009, Windows Live had partnered with 74 services from around the web to pull in updates to your feed.
These include Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, and a plethora of services for video sharing, photo sharing, blogging, reviews, ratings, etc. Further, these are localized in 35 languages.
Ex-Friendfeeders have migrated in large numbers to Buzz. Surprisingly, Windows Live is more Friendfeeder-friendly than Buzz, at least at present.
The process for adding your profile from another service to Windows Live is extremely simple and easy-to-use, compared to the tortuous approach in Google Buzz.
Two-Way Integration with Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn
The Salmon protocol is not here yet, and we don’t know if Facebook and others will support it. What we do know is that you can interact with your Facebook feed from within Windows Live today.
Your status updates, photo uploads, etc. can be pushed to other networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and soon, LinkedIn as well. You can comment on your friends updates in those networks from within Windows Live.
Friends vs. Acquaintances
A nice little feature lets you perform a “reluctant accept” or a “polite decline” of friend requests.
Selecting the “Limit the access…” box lets me accept the friend request as an acquaintance who only sees the updates I set for All Friends, and not all my photos or contact information.
To me, this feature shows that Microsoft is “getting social” like nobody else today.
Mark People as Favorites
In any news feed, whether Facebook, Buzz, or Twitter, I wish there was a way to choose people whose updates I don’t want to miss. Windows Live allows you to do that.
Note the Highlights, Recent, etc. links in the above screenshot giving me quick access to key filters for my news feed.
One of the features much wanted in Buzz has been the ability to filter out updates based on the service imported – Twitter, Flickr, etc. Windows Live lets you do that today:
You can also set many other filters for what you wish to see in your news feed:
See this post by Dare Obasanjo for more on how Windows Live is designed to reduce noise and focus on the signal.
Windows Live on iPhone
The free Windows Live Messenger iPhone app has chat, aggregated social feed, photo upload and email. Microsoft will have something better when Windows Phone 7 comes out later this year, but it’s noteworthy that they didn’t shun the iOS platform just because they have a rival mobile OS.
Windows Live may not support as many open standards and protocols as Google Buzz does, but do end users really care? Windows Live doesn’t present an either-Facebook-or-Buzz dilemma, and doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel by building a network from the ground up. It leverages Messenger’s large user base without compromising on privacy and data portability. These can be important lessons for any Head of Social.
Most importantly, unlike Buzz, it keeps things simple, stupid!