Microsoft will start testing on Tuesday an Internet video-sharing service called Soapbox, the software company's answer to Web sensation YouTube.
Soapbox (http://soapbox.msn.com) is one facet of Microsoft's strategy to create
attractive Internet content to lure away billions of Web advertising dollars from
market leaders Google and Yahoo.
Offering everything from funny home videos made by users to clips from old TV
shows, YouTube sprung out of nowhere late last year as an entertainment break for
millions of broadband Web surfers. In August, the site had 34 million visitors,
according to Nielsen//NetRatings.
Soapbox will be offered to a limited number of users during an invitation-only
test phase, but Microsoft said on Monday it will go fully live as a part of MSN
Video within six months.
Microsoft is a late arrival into the crowded video-sharing market, following
offerings from Google, Yahoo, Time Warner Inc.'s AOL unit and News Corp.'s social
networking site MySpace. Last month, Sony Corp. agreed to pay $65 million to buy
video-sharing site Grouper.com.
Focused on original programming and clips from broadcast partners, MSN Video once
was the most popular Internet video site until fans of user-generated content
propelled YouTube, MySpace and Google past Microsoft in recent months.
Since March, the number of YouTube monthly visitors has nearly tripled while MSN
Video remained mostly unchanged at less than 12 million users.
MySpace video quadrupled to 17.9 million visitors a month and monthly Google Video
users rose 70 percent to 13.5 million over the last six months, according to
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said it will take down any copyrighted
material illegally uploaded by users once it is alerted by the rights holder, a
similar policy to YouTube.
Microsoft aims to win over users with a Soapbox player that allows people to
categorize, share and comment on videos, all while the video continues to play
It also provides simple and quick uploading of videos, Microsoft said.
In a departure from its past strategy of restricting MSN Video to its Internet
Explorer browser and Windows Media Player, Microsoft will make Soapbox available
for various browsers including Mozilla Firefox and Apple Computer Inc.'s Safari.
Soapbox will also support a number of video file formats and delivery methods,
according to Microsoft.
There will be no advertisements on Soapbox during the testing period, but
Microsoft said it is studying how to best capitalize on the video content.