Microsoft is closing its Windows Live Spaces blogging platform and moving all its users over to WordPress.com. It’s a dramatic move which means that it’s giving up a potentially vast slice of advertising business – perhaps because it simply can’t make it pay. Or, as Microsoft puts it, “partnering together” – redundant word alert – “and providing an upgrade for 30 million Windows Live Spaces customers. Please make no mistake, this is dramatic:
it means that Microsoft is giving up potentially valuable turf where it could have sold ads, in the manner of Google and the Blogger platform (which generates revenues for Google), and retreating from at least one part of the online space.
As Tim Anderson puts it,
“According to Microsoft, it has 7 million users and 30 million visitors; and if you accept that business on the web is all about traffic and monetizing traffic, then it strikes me as odd that Microsoft has no better idea of what to do with that traffic than to give it to someone else… This means that WordPress, not Microsoft, now has the opportunity to show ads or market other services to these users. “ Dharmesh Mehta, director of Windows Live Product Management and author of the post for the Windows Live Spaces team, says:
“As we looked at customers’ blogging needs and what different companies were providing, we were particularly interested in what WordPress.com is doing. They have a host of impressive capabilities – from a scalable platform and leading spam protection to great personalization and customization. WordPress powers over 8.5% of the web, is used on over 26 million sites, and WordPress.com is seen by over 250 million people every month. Not only that, Automattic is a company filled with
great people focused on improving blogging experiences. So rather than having Windows Live invest in a competing blogging service, we decided the best thing we could do for our customers was give them a great blogging solution through WordPress.com. Basically, if you’re one of those Live Space bloggers, and you’re still doing stuff on your blog, then Live Spaces is encouraging – nay, pushing – you over to WordPress.
Because if you don’t want to shift over to WordPress…
“If you’re not ready to migrate today, you can also choose to download your blog content, migrate later, or delete your Space.” You’ve got six months before it disappears into the excellent Bit Bucket where Geocities has gone. Often, of course, you can figure out who’s won out in a deal by comparing the corporate statements. What does WordPress say? On its blog (of course), Paul Kim, its vice-president of user growth, says:
“We’re delighted that Microsoft chose WordPress.com as their preferred new blogging service for Windows Live users. It’s a sign of how strong WordPress.com has become, and credit for that goes to every one of you who’s been creating here.“
It certainly is. And note that there’s no mention of Microsoft getting any advertising dibs there. WordPress makes its money through premium blogs: you can get a wordpress.com site for free, but if you pay extra, then you can do all sorts of other things, including host it on your site (while leaving hassles like upgrades to WordPress themselves.)
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Following the news that Vox is closing (on 30 September) and that its parent Six Apart (which created Movable Type) is joining with VideoEgg to create a new company called Say Media, one has to think that the pool of hosted blogging platforms is shrinking rather rapidly. At this rate, pretty soon, it’s only going to be Blogger and WordPress.
And if that’s what it comes down to, you’d have to say that WordPress has the edge. It’s being taken up by the British government, even for non-blogging websites, where it acts as an effective content management system. That though may overlook the emergence of “superfast blog“ systems such as Tumblr, which strip away a lot of the stuff on the outside – which can make blog upkeep complicated or tedious. Even so, it’s not clear from here where blogging, as a separate activity, is going.
As I said last year, I still have the sense that the long tail of blogging is dying. Microsoft’s capitulation over Live Spaces seems an acknowledgment of that (its previous post, link in that quote above, notes how much of a problem spam blogs and comment spam have been; indeed, when I used to trawl blogs for Technology content, Live Spaces blogs were notorious for being pure splogs or copy/paste jobs). WordPress.com has done a better job keeping the spam out. The question now is whether it is building its business on top of an iceberg in a warming sea – or dry land.