Microsoft surprised the tech world yesterday with the announcement that Live Spaces, the company’s blog hosting platform, would be no more, and that all existing sites would be migrated across to Automattic’s WordPress.com platform.
“Rather than having Windows Live invest in a competing blogging service, we decided the best thing we could do for our customers was to give them a great blogging solution through WordPress.com,” said Microsoft’s director of Windows Live product management, Dharmesh Mehta, during the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.
The company also pointed out that “WordPress powers over 8.5 percent of the web, is used on over 26 million sites, and WordPress.com is seen by over 250 million people every month.”
WordPress themselves said that Microsoft’s move was “a sign of how strong WordPress.com has become”, in their own blog post.
The move was announced at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, where the chief executive of WordPress-maker Automatic, Toni Schneider, said “This is a unique advantage of web services, where somebody can transition a user base and still maintain a connection with them”.
Microsoft said Monday that people who sign up for a Windows Live account – necessary to use the free Hotmail e-mail system, the Xbox Live site and other services – can get a free blog from WordPress.com. They’ll no longer be given a “space” on Microsoft’s own blogging system, Windows Live Spaces.
Current Windows Live Spaces bloggers can use the existing system until the end of the year. If they want to update their blog after that, they have until March 2011 to switch to WordPress. They can also download the content from their existing blog to their PCs.
Microsoft said it will make sure existing text, photos, videos, comments and links transfer over to the new blog. Microsoft currently has 30 million people using its Windows Live Spaces blogging platform.
Microsoft added MSN Spaces, later renamed Windows Live Spaces, to its array of free online services in 2004. For several years, the software maker seemed committed to the idea of building its own version of competitors’ products, from online photo management and event invitation to blogging and social-networking software.
Microsoft has since shifted its strategy, providing tools and services that mesh better with competitors’ programs. For example, people can use the Windows Live Photo Gallery program to publish pictures to Yahoo Inc.’s Flickr site, or connect feeds from social networks Facebook and LinkedIn with Messenger accounts and Windows Live profile pages.
In a blog post, Microsoft said giving its customers access to WordPress.com was a better move than continuing to invest in its own service. That may be because Windows Live Spaces gets a fraction of the traffic its competitors do, at least in the U.S.
In the U.S., Windows Live Spaces was visited by only 2.3 million people in August, according to research group comScore Inc. Google Inc.’s Blogger drew 56.9 million people, WordPress.com attracted 26.1 million people and sites from Six Apart, which operates the Typepad and Moveable Type blog platforms, attracted 19.3 million unique visitors.
Do you think that the deal between Microsoft and Automattic makes sense, or is Microsoft merely admitting that it doesn’t understand blogging quite as well as it thought? Share your thoughts over in the comments below. [via Huffington Post and PC Mag]