Live Spaces is heralded as Windows Live’s community site. However, it’s definitely not a good community site. More or less, your "Space" is considered your own little world, and by chance, you might have a few friends who set up a Space and share and post items. Some community. Searching for a real-life friend is a joke, especially if you’re an American. Or any other nationality. They’re either in your contact list from the start, or you’re very least likely to stumble upon anyone else you’d possibly know on Live Spaces. Oh, there might be some people that will add you, but they’re honestly NOT the type of person you might consider a friend. If you consider a "friend" on Live Space to be someone who adds you to make their "friend" list larger, uses their Live Space as an advertising spam page, speaks shoddy English and has a Space in completely foreign language, doesn’t even let you view their Space despite the fact they added you, or has absolutely nothing posted on their space, but a bunch of so-called "friends", than Live Space is the perfect spot to find all these people.
So what else is there to offer? Well you can install "gadgets" on your Space to view a feed or enjoy a simple activity offered. But most gadgets are pure crap, and there’s not a lot developers or whoever to make real interesting gadgets. You can post photos and share them. But the photo upload tool is kinda cruddy, viewing photos on Live Spaces isn’t enjoyable, and a lot of photos happen to be low quality. So what’s left? Blogging. Personally, blogging is probably the only decent tool, next to photo-sharing (500 photos a month, free!) that’s somewhat useful on Live Spaces. I use it all the time, like to write this blog.
So pretty much, Live Spaces really sucks, despite the improvements over the years. Here’s what I think could change that:
- Spam killing – Live Spaces used to be a decent place to blog, but now spammers are popping up like crazy every so often. Those nasty Chinese spammers. They’re quite prevalent on long-abandoned Live team blogs. It’s sad that the teams don’t update their blogs, or do a thing about the spam issue. How about a report/flag button next to users in the comment section? Or maybe some proper spam filtering throughout the site? Or even a way to block users you don’t want to see dropping comments on your Space? I’m not asking the impossible here.
- Networks – Practically every social networking site does have a network users can sign onto, right? From what it seems, Live Spaces bills itself as a social networking site, yet there’s no networks to join! What a lie! So how hard is it to create networks for users to join? A region specific network shouldn’t be that difficult. Then moving onto education institutions, and then companies. I doubt Microsoft could ever beat Facebook in the way Facebook revolutionized what social networking really meant, but at least having a network shows some attempt. Maybe they can grab some market outside of America, that hasn’t been tapped into the Facebook phenomenon yet.
- Groups – MSN Groups is fine, for its ability to accept a lot of customization, but Groups would make a great deal and presence on Live Spaces, than off alone in MSN land. Live Groups needs to be just as user customizable enough (so that it’s not atrocious like some MSN Groups), and have the usual features like a place to post photo, videos, links, have discussions, share news, etc. If Groups had a nice UI to it, and viewing media posted is a snap, as well as advance discussion threads (with branching replies, spectacular comment tools, and the works) Groups could be something.
- Classified ads – As soon as a regional network starts up, then it would be much more simpler to post a classified ad in the local area. If you want to succeed in making something successful, then give the listed posting a nice clean interface, user ratings on people, ability to post up some decent pictures or videos, IM/Send-A-Message/Call buttons, Live Map of the location specified, Enough characters to type up a good listing, etc. Make it nice looking, and you’re set. All for free.
- Personals & Dating – Yet another community feature. Take MSN’s Match.com, add a new WinLive look, open to teenagers (contained separately), better searching, better layout, and make it FREE. Most online services put some stupid price for monthly subscriptions and that nonsense, while I just want to see who’s available in my area based on my criteria. Ads are a better way of monetizing than some ridiculous subscription fees. I’d love to see a new social networking site cater to youths looking for dates, instead of eSPIN.
- Retaining user privacy – One of my contacts Marge has an issue with retaining privacy on Space. Live Spaces has this community feature called "What’s Your Story" that features 4 Spaces of particular interest. Marge never gave permission to be spotlighted on Spaces. She claims that she got a lot of "friend" invites from many users, who probably aren’t even looking to be actual friends. She found this filling up her inbox very annoying, and says that spam came out more than usual. Live Spaces needs to contact users to receive permission to display their Space to the world. She also does not appreciate the "Print" option on top of every blog post. She loves to write poems and short stories, and doesn’t want anyone to just go print off her work and do whatever with it. There should be an option to have more limiting functions on visitors.
- Status Message – Is it that difficult to display my status message on Spaces? Live Messenger has this feature where you can type a quick status message on how you’re doing. Just like a Twitter feed (though Messenger had this for a long time). Practically every social/community page has some type of status message display, that users can display, except Live Spaces. I’d love to see a status message display, that’d also synced with Live Messenger.
- Easier page customizing – Moving around modules in Live Spaces, can be difficult and not friendly. On Facebook, it’s super simple to drag the top of an application and move it around swiftly to where you might want it, and get a good preview at the way it will finally look. Netvibes also does it the same way, with the same nice dashed lines to indicate the space taken by the module. How does Live Spaces currently do it? You go to this option where you are presented with "module arrangement" and there are top, bottom, and the middle pane (with middle pane divided into 3 more pieces. You CAN’T drag-n’-drop these. Instead, there are these boring 4 buttons that say left, up, down, right. Cruddy.
- Messenger IM Control/Presence – How about putting a little Messenger icon next to a user’s name to determine if they’re online or offline? Your friends can see you, but I don’t mind showing everybody that I’m available, as long as they don’t get my e-mail address. LiveSide does what exactly I’m talking about.
- Better widgets – Or Spaces gadgets as it is called. "Most" gadgets are rather boring, and there’s not enough good gadgets out there. Most of them look crappy, and also act crappy. That’s just the best way to say it. How come Microsoft isn’t creating more gadgets? Why is it up to the developers, if there is any that wants to develop for Live Spaces? Microsoft needs to create incentives to get developers to build great apps. Maybe a contest to win a grand prize? A better API to work with? Make Live Spaces get more users? Facebook gets tons of quality ones because there’s many users, and the ability to make social apps. MySpace is already getting lots of apps. Why not Live Spaces?
- MyShelf – A personal feature that I made up. I would love an application where I can show a virtual shelf of my music, books, and movies I’m into. High quality cover art thumbnails of my favorite music, books, and movies line up my virtual shelves. When you hover over a thumbnail, you get the title, my personal overview of the item, as well as a link to buy the item at Zune Marketplace. Great idea, eh?
- Flash/Silverlight player, not WMP – WMP is awful on the web. It doesn’t load up as fast, keeps stalling as it loads, and the player’s button configuration is awful. It’s better to make a nice looking Flash/Silverlight player, then the crud that is WMP on the web.
- Better browser support – Live Spaces runs well enough in IE "most" of the times, but Safari, Opera, and other browsers don’t get the same treatment. Mostly, it’s the same experience in IE, but the photo slideshows aren’t as good, dropping a comment is buggy, and a few other quirks. It doesn’t even work that great in IE7 sometimes. I don’t know what, but Live Spaces needs to work better with other browsers, and load up faster.
- Less page switching – I hate it when Live Spaces has to reload to go to another page. Live Spaces itself is sluggish enough, but to do quick fixes like deleting a comment, edit a caption, adding a comment, moving around modules, etc. shouldn’t require a lot of page loading to do. Has the Live Spaces team ever heard of AJAX? They should, since Microsoft started it off a long time ago. I don’t know how much AJAXing is done on Live Spaces, but there certainly isn’t enough to do quick changes without reloading the page. Use AJAX better so there is less need to reload the page as much.
- Chatrooms – Chatrooms are a great way to meet new people, and talk about interests you share. Live Spaces could bring back MSN Chat with a new sleek look, more categories, more input tools, and make chatrooms more flexible and appealing.
- Better photo sharing – I want photo-sharing to be something Flickr-like (if MS doesn’t buy Yahoo!) experience. All the AJAX goodness like on-the-fly editing, tagging, ability to search for public photos, offer several photo sizes to download, better commenting, fancy slideshows as well as Photosynthing, cooler ways to display photos on Spaces (like separate snapshots, frames, cool slideshow transistions, etc.), simple photo-editing tools (on the page), and anything else that might appeal to a photo-lover.
- Video-sharing – There’s MSN Soapbox, which is a separate site. I’m thinking that MSN Soapbox could move over to Live Spaces, get a brand new WinLive-esque UI, give every good feature there is possible, and bam. You’ve got a brilliant video-sharing site that could rival the likes of YouTube. If all the other reasons on this list ever get done.
- Easier friend managing – I love how you can manage friends on Wallop. Each friend shows up as a circular icon, and you can drag them around in a virtual space. You can make a cluster, separate individually, put someone you like closer to your own icon, toss people out of the boundary, have people you might be interested lining just outside the boundary, and so on. It’s awesome. I’d like something similar (if not the same), and an easy way to write a personal quick overview, tag them, view their contact card, brief profile, status, and an easier way of searching through/for your friends.
- More themes, layout choices, more customization features – As the web grows and grows, it’s only time until the need for more customization grows. MySpace is very popular for supporting lots of fancy codes (to a fault), while Facebook leans towards little is better. An easy way to change the color/shading/font/size/transparency/effect to a module, without needing to reload the page is good. Having more than 3 columns, a big or paned background image, ways to create unique themes, tons of gadgets, and all the works. The more the customizability, the better.
- Better "Guestbook" – Guestbook is another decent enough feature. I just wish it could have some of the neat features of The Wall and Super Wall in Facebook. Things to include such as : Graffiti (doodled art), Photos, Videos, Music, Share Link (like Facebook’s that bring up description and current pictures on site), Record Video (from webcam), etc.
- Make a better Lists app. – The current List-making app. is fine enough, but there are parts I do not particularly like. Reordering items on a List is very cumbersome. Instead of dropping a number of the position I want in a box next to the listing, how about simply drag-n-drop items in the position you want? Is it that difficult Microsoft? It’s not rocket science here if other sites can do it. It’s a no-brainer. The ability to copy and paste pictures next to items, would be more easier for me, than hunting down image URLs.
- Games – More on the casual gaming side, and the ability to play with you’re online friends live. I’m thinking this is yet another MSN property that could switch it’s roots over to WinLive. Give MSN Games a new WinLive look, bring interactive social games to play with friends, and keep the game rental service. Gaming as a social networking feature would be awesome.
- Download Store – A direct download store on Live Spaces offering things like customized themes, applications, virtual pet supplies, display pics, etc. NO need to hang out on Windows Live Gallery to search for a simple thing on on Live Spaces.
- MyWorld – A virtual online world. Every user can make their own avatar, has a provided pad which they can customize with stuff, and the ability to walk around in an open world environment where users can create up to a certain point. MyWorld can be available on a web browser, desktop, or even the Xbox. Certain things can have a price like accessories, dwelling upgrades, etc. It’d be wonderful if there could be realistic high-quality graphics, easy chatting, nicely customizable environments, lots of choices, and easy to use. Virtual worlds are the next big thing.
- Public Events – There should be a page showing upcoming public events that are being hosted. The page could contain upcoming events, which can have an overview, location info., Live Map of the area, picture/video, any important links, add to calendar (Live, iCal, whatever), and maybe the ability for users to say that they’re attending. This could be an extension of Live Local (formerly MSN City Guides). Live Spaces Events (the current one) is rather weak to me, and won’t attract much but a few girly-girls who like frills, or maybe a guy that might try it just once and never again.
So I’m thinking that Live Spaces could become the next MEGA community/social-networking site, if all 25 things were accomplished. Or at least the big ones. 5/25 are actually a redone MSN site that belonged in a community/social environment, and another 5/25 is bringing in existing/dead Live services into the community/social mix. Some of the other stuff is rather wishful thinking, that I’d love to see become a reality, though the chances aren’t that high.
I hope the Live Spaces team will consider some of these ideas.
UPDATE : I recently put a revised version of this blog entry wishlist. I thought that this list didn’t seem good enough, so I rewrote a new one. Hope it helps : http://msftandthefuture.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!1CA34B674D84900!1897.entry