Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer seems to have suddenly become blogging’s biggest cheerleader. Here’s a quote from yesterday’s Detroit Free press:
“Blogging is huge,” [Ballmer] said. “It brings together the three biggest Internet trends: communicating, sharing and socializing. It started with e-mail and instant messaging and music sharing, and it’s getting bigger each day.”
It’s probably not coincidental that Ballmer’s enthusiastic embrace of blogging comes on the heels of this week’s release of MSN Spaces, Microsoft’s new foray into blogland. Spaces is an interesting social application space, which provides users with a free web environment that includes a blogging tool, as well as a photo album section, a music list, a link list tool, and other features I haven’t yet had time to explore.
I set up an account there today (and was required to use my Microsoft Passport, which didn’t thrill me). My first impression was generally positive. The blogs support trackbacks, a notable omission in Blogger. They also have RSS feeds, which is good, but no Atom, which is disappointing. The built-in photo album is a nice touch, though it doesn’t hold a candle to Flickr. There are a range of themes to choose from, some of which are quite lovely. However, the site warns me that without Internet Explorer (for the PC, natch), I can’t take advantage of the full range of customization options. (To their credit, the site works well in Firefox on my Mac.)
The response time on the server is pretty sluggish this evening, which is a bit of a concern. And in general, I’m always nervous about having my blog posts hosted on a central service that I don’t control—I like having my text on a server that I can back up whenever I’d like. Not to mention that I feel pretty strongly about having my blog at my own domain name, free of ties to specific hosting services or tools.
All in all, I found Spaces to be a very credible and more fully-featured alternative to Blogger for users who want to set up a blog quickly and easily, and don’t want to spend money doing so (or learn a lot of technical skills to accomplish it). From accounts I’ve been reading lately, Blogger has been increasingly slow and unreliable—not ideal qualities at any time, but particularly not when a big-time competitor has just unleashed an alternative.
Anybody else tried Spaces yet? What do you think?