SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp. is becoming the latest company aiming to bring blogging to the masses with a free new tool that lets people easily set up Web journals.
MSN Spaces, which debuts in test form today, is targeted at home users who want to share things like vacation pictures, text journals or a list of favorite songs. The service, free to anyone with a Hotmail e-mail or MSN Messenger account, is part of Microsoft’s effort to keep people in a Microsoft-branded universe for all their online communication needs.
MSN Spaces will be supported by banner ads that appear at the top of the Web logs.
Plenty of other companies already offer tools to make it easy for less tech-savvy users to create and maintain blogs, the popular Web logs that track everything from workday antics to political gossip.
Microsoft rival AOL has provided its members with a tool since mid-2003, and search engine leader Google Inc. — another key Microsoft competitor — offers a free service through its Blogger.com site. Movable Type offers the popular TypePad service, starting at $4.95 a month
Microsoft previously offered a service, called MSN Groups, which let people create their own Web sites. But this is the first time it is turning its attention to the growing blogging phenomenon.
Although Microsoft is trailing Google and AOL, Gartenberg said it’s not too late since blogging is only just catching on with mainstream users.
Microsoft is closely integrating MSN Spaces with its Messenger and Hotmail programs, with the idea that people will hop from one Microsoft product to another for online communications.
For example, users can set up a system that alerts friends on MSN Messenger when they have updated their Web journals. If a blogger chooses to limit access to his or her Web journal to a select group of guests, those people will need to use Microsoft’s “Passport” to log in. The most common way to get a Passport login is to sign up for a Hotmail or Messenger account.
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