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September 23, 2006

MSN Video's Soapbox

Last week, MSN Video released a beta version of its own entry into being an outlet for user-generated video, a site that will be called Soapbox, made available as part of the video service.

I'll forgive the fact that they blatantly stole their name from Procter & Gamble's online message board where representatives from the show interact with soap opera fans. After all, mainstream media want to relegate soaps to the margins so often that they probably didn't even know.

But the company's hope is that the Soapbox site will provide significant competition from the popular services from YouTube, MySpace, and Google Video, among others. However, while the product will be available on both Windows and Macintosh computers, it is available particularly for Internet Explorer and Firefox. I don't know if that means that there could be significant complications for users with Safari, for instance, or other popular browsers.

The plan is to make any option, such as sharing the video, tracking the video, or embedding the video, available while still watching videos, in order to make Soapbox as user-friendly as possible. And the plan appears to be to allow for both advertising on Soapbox pages, ads that run before a video begins, and promotion of the Soapbox site on the MSN Video main page.

For at least half a year, the Soapbox site will only be available by invitation. There is a waiting list on the Web site that interested users can sign up for, if you want to be a Soapbox early adopter.

The question is whether it will prove significantly more useful than YouTube and MySpace's products. With the social networking uses of MySpace and the widespread popularity of YouTube by entering the space first, MSN Soapbox will have a lot of catching up to do. While it already has a trusted video site, user-generated video is a different beast, and the company better hope that the beta users find the unique features of this site to be impressive enough that they share it with plenty of people. Good word-of-mouth could make Soapbox a contender.

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