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Windows Live Beta

Windows Live, the replacement for MSN Search, is in early beta at live.com. What's rough about the beta? Well, at this time:
  • The captcha image is nearly impossible to read (example below)
  • The login diversion en-route to "personalize my homepage" leaves one stranded at https://account.live.com/SummaryPage.aspx?mkt=en-us&lc=1033 without any guidance as to how to get back or what to do there
  • The site repeatedly pops up "website certified by unknown authority" warnings on Firefox (even after accepting the cert permanently)
  • The "personalize my homepage" process stalls out at getstarted.aspx, where the button click brings you back to the same page. I was stuck on that page, dead-ended, until I went back to live.com directly.
  • Less popular feeds appear to be a few days stale.
Minor hiccups aside, how does it look?
  • Fast, snappy, intuitive ajax. Nicely done.
  • It feels like a Microsoft UI. Complexity, not simplicity.
  • There are both "pages" (tabs) and "folders". (Are both metaphors really needed?) Allows one to organize a collection of RSS feeds into logical subcollections. Nice.
  • I like the post summary on displayed on hover.
  • The blog search works well.
  • The gadgets weren't fully cooked yet: the mail gadget gave an error, and I'm not sure what the safety center did.
  • You can export your feed list in OPML.

Amazing how quickly the browser acts more and more like a desktop OS each day.

The billion dollar question: will Windows Live increase the number of people using MSN for search? That remains to be seen. Long term, I don't think a great personalized ajax desktop offers a competitive advantage -- Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft will adopt the best ideas from one another extremely quickly. (Prediction: Google will add a "pages" feature to its personalized homepage w/in 60 days.) All three will quickly reach a point of excellence and thus commoditization.

Search market share implications aside, Microsoft's personalized homepage looks pretty good. Kudos to the engineering team. I'm switching over to live.com for the next week or so as my personalized homepage to see how it goes.

windows live captcha
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