Windows Live Messenger Connect is Microsoft's answer to Facebook Connect

Websites can soon use Messenger for logon credentials, but why would they want to?

Microsoft on Monday released a beta version of Windows Live Messenger Connect, which allows users to log on to Websites with their Messenger IDs. If you are trying to support multiple online services to get people to sign-on to the registered parts of your Web site, you can now include Messenger users in the mix. Participation in the beta program is by invitation-only. To request an invite go here.

Steve Ballmer as emoticons [Slideshow]

Let's connect
Yes, it's akin to Facebook Connect, or OpenID, or credentials from Yahoo, Google, Twitter, and so on. Yes, it's late to market -- especially when you realize that what Microsoft released this week was just a beta of the APIs, not the final code. It usually takes Microsoft six months or more to go from beta to final code.

The question is, does your corporate customer-facing Web app want to support it, in addition to all the others? Perhaps, but probably not. In addition to allowing users to sign on to your site with their Windows Live Messenger credentials, Messenger users can more easily share stuff from your Website with their Messenger friends. Activities appear in Messenger, Hotmail, and across other Windows Live sites such as Windows Phone 7, and the newly released Windows Live Messenger iPhone app.

I'm of the mind that most Windows Messenger/Windows Live users are not doing much social networking on those services. I use many online services including some from Google, some from Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. I love several Windows Live services, particularly SkyDrive. There are a few people who I contact with Windows Live Messenger (but I also use AOL Instant Messenger and Google Talk). I see my Messenger friends' status updates on my Windows Live landing page when I log in to use the other tools.

But I don't care much.

And the reason I don't is that my best, most important friends use Facebook and Twitter. No one is begging me to adopt Windows Live so we can hang out online together. I could still standardize on Windows Live if I wanted to. It recently went "social" by adding hooks to other popular services, Facebook and Twitter included. Now the Windows Live page shows updates from those sites alongside my few Messenger friends.

My first thought was that Microsoft's roll-out of free office apps, would make people go running for Windows Live. But I predict that people who love the desktop version of Office, like myself, will soon be disillusioned with Office Web Apps. Windows Live Office Apps offers one nifty feature ... the ability to open a Web document in the full-featured desktop version of Office (presuming you have licensed a copy).

I use Google Docs a lot, and there's no denying that the functionality in the desktop version of Microsoft Office blows Google away. For instance, in Google Docs Spreadsheet, did you know that there is no way to select cells that are not adjacent to each other? But ... oh wait, you can't do that in Excel Apps, either. And you know what you can't do in Excel -- use a formula such as "Sum" ... the Sum button is missing, replaced by a hard-to-see formula "fx" bar. No matter what I've tried, the browser version wouldn't let me add up numbers in a column. Oh and guess what? ... the browser version doesn't link to any online help files (that I could find after 10 minutes of hunting) either. I finally found a MSDN article that explained how to add numbers in a column. You are to manually type the formula and THEN the app is supposed to offer a pop-up box, which it never did for me ... but, I digress ...

So I can't see how it will matter a whole lot if you use the new Windows Live Messenger Connect API or ignore it until Windows Live becomes the new Facebook or the new Google, if it ever does.

It is also true that much of the capability available in this beta was already around in one form or another, Microsoft says. But it lived scattered among different APIs (Messenger Web Toolkit, Live ID Web Authentication, Delegated Authentication, and the Windows Live Contacts API). What Microsoft is doing is consolidating. And consolidating it's scattered online services, and its scattered APIs is exactly what Microsoft needs to be doing. (But I'd feel a little better if it created a Privacy Dashboard while it consolidated.) It also needs to make sure that the things it is offering to users are features they need and want.

If you want to connect with me please join me on Twitter @Julie188 or my newly created Facebook Like page. If you want to chat with me on Windows Live Messenger, or Windows Live, please accept my apologies.

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