Windows Live Spaces has just launched, tying new social networking features into the blogging service. The new release features an integrated friends module tied into your contacts defined in Messenger and elsewhere, and adds new customization options using Microsoft Gadgets.
The new friends integration is the real hotness, allowing users to define their relationships and see more information about the people who matter most. The friends module shows Messenger presence and status messages and adds a “gleam” next to any contact with a recently updated space. Friends lists are browsable within a Spaces web page as well as within that contact’s mini-profile (contact card) within Messenger.
Spaces users can add the same Microsoft Gadgets written for their desktop or personal start page to their blog sidebar. If you are a Sudoku fan you might add a Sudoku puzzle or two to your sidebar and let your friends compete with you for high scores. I think the broad reach of gadgets across multiple uses could turn up some compelling content for Spaces users.
The Spaces homepage is now a lot less ugly than before too. They still have the very Ubuntu-like image of three people holding hands (contrasted above), but it’s now in 3-D.
I think products such as Messenger will continue to be especially popular among users who enjoy a suite of tools. Combine Spaces, Messenger, Hotmail, and Zune, and many users are happy it all works well together. I’m sure more Windows Live products will be integrated with Spaces as they launch, creating new reasons for the personal profile pages to act as hubs of online activity.
Hopefully this is the last time for a while feed aggregator users are reminded just how often the same Spaces content changes its GUID. If you opened your aggregator this evening to find many new and unread items from your Spaces feed, it’s the URL changing again.
The official Spaces blog has the official announcement or you can browse some of the new features on the Discover Spaces site