MSN Joins the Video Sharing Fray

Microsoft launched its new video sharing platform, Soapbox, in closed beta this week. The site will be integrated throughout MSN’s properties.

Soapbox, previously codenamed Warhol, will be treated as a component of MSN Video, though users will have the ability to share and view videos through other sections such as Windows Live Spaces and Windows Live Messenger.

“That’s one of their potential advantages,” JupiterKagan VP and Senior Analyst David Card told ClickZ News. “They have a lot of Spaces users and they have a significant presence in instant messenger [mostly overseas]. Part of their pitch is an integrated experience.”

The site’s functionality allows users to browse 15 categories, rate, comment and add descriptive “tags” to each video, according to information posted to Backlot, MSN’s Entertainment & Video Services blog. It also says video can be shared via e-mail or posted to blogs using an embeddable Soapbox player. While the usual features like recently and most-viewed videos are built in, Sandbox features a Related Tag Explorer to make it easier to navigate within a category or a certain search. Music searches can pull up a tag cloud of a particular category like Pop, which will then feature tags for various artists and record labels within the category, for example.

“I think they’re doing the right things; they’re embracing Web 2.0 features,” said Card. “It’s hard to differentiate in this space, it looks like Microsoft has a slick tool, but YouTube doesn’t look slick, and it has a whole lot of the content and traffic,”

Microsoft hopes to leverage the user-generated medium to bolster its market share in the video area. In August, MSN Video accounted for 5.92 percent of the audience, according to Hitwise, compared with YouTube’s 45 percent and MySpace Video’s 23 percent. Portals offering a mix of professional and user-generated video include Google Video, with 10 percent of the market, and Yahoo Video with 6 percent, according to Hitwise data. Other video hosting and sharing sites include Revver, VideoEgg and Jumpcut.

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