Microsoft’s investigation into allegations that the code for the new MSN China Juku social networking feature was stolen has ended with an admission by the contractor that it was "copied" apparently from a startup called Plurk. As a result, MSN China will be suspending Juku indefinitely. Michael Arrington at TechCrunch gets the best line award for:
Fiirst, Microsoft is standing around with their pants around their ankles looking pretty ridiculous right now. And second, this is the best thing to happen to Plurk, ever.
Reports surfaced yesterday that MSN China’s new Juku social networking feature bore more than a passing resemblance to a small social network site named Plurk. MSN China’s Juku feature has now been put on hold while Microsoft investigates:
Here’s what we know at this point. Our MSN China joint venture contracted with an independent vendor to create a feature called MSN Juku that allowed MSN users to find friends via microblogging and online games. This MSN Juku feature was made available to MSN China users in November and is still in beta.
Because questions have been raised about the code base comprising the service, MSN China will be suspending access to the Juku beta feature temporarily while we investigate the matter fully.
And yes, MSN China is a joint venture between Microsoft and a near-governmental entity, Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd., which is the investment company of Jiang Mianheng, the son of a former president of China.
As first revealed by The Telegraph, in July 2009, the download service will go live tomorrow in beta. However, the streaming side of the service will only be available to “several thousand” people invited to test the product.
MSN Music had been scheduled to go live by the end of July. However, the product “took longer than they thought it would to get it to the high quality they wanted”, according to Peter Bale, executive producer of MSN.
Microsoft has signed deals with the four major music labels: EMI, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony BMG, securing around one million tracks for the launch ready to download. Comparatively iTunes has over 10 million tracks available and 7digital has over eight million tracks in its catalogue. The Telegraph understands independent record labels have yet to be signed.
The service will sit within the ‘Music’ section of MSN and be promoted across the portal. When asked why Microsoft was making a move into the highly competitive world of digital music services, Mr Bale replied: “This shouldn’t be seen as a major company-wide strategic move. We are replacing a service that used to be on MSN a year ago and the service is very much confined to MSN.
Easy for Mr. Bale to say. A more likely rationale is that MSN Music is a stopgap service until the Zune Marketplace finally gets beyond North America:
The download store will be run on the same technology Microsoft uses to power the Zune marketplace in the US. Zune is the company’s music player, which is only available in the US, and similar to Apple’s iTunes, it has its own music download online store. However, Mr Bale said the company’s decision to use the same technology for this service was a logical move and not “necessarily a pre-cursor to Zune launching in the UK”.
I guess they will have to leave the lights on waiting for the Zune to show up.
All of this is more or less understandable except for choosing the MSN Music name which conjures up unpleasant memories of the last MSN Music service which was killed by the Zune in 2006.
Today Microsoft announced an alliance with OpenX, the vendor of an open source Web ad server and proprietor of a Web advertising market for smaller publishers. The objective is for
… the companies to cross-market and promote products to their respective publisher bases. Under terms of the multiyear agreement, OpenX becomes a preferred partner to publishers for enterprise ad serving solutions. In addition, OpenX will promote Microsoft’s Content Ads monetization products — as well as other products that may be developed in the future — to its existing base of Web publisher customers.
OpenX and Microsoft will each enjoy significant benefits from the partnership. Most notably, Microsoft will have a major distribution channel for its monetization products through OpenX’s community of more than 150,000 Web sites that serve more than 300 billion ads per month. OpenX will, in turn, gain access to a new base of potential customers — via referrals from Microsoft — for its enterprise advertising technology and services.
The Content Ads component of the agreement follows a successful trial Microsoft and OpenX began in August 2008, during which OpenX provided invitations to its publishers to test the product. Content Ads matches ads to relevant editorial content, allowing advertisers to increase campaign effectiveness, which can allow publishers to achieve a higher yield on certain types of inventory. As part of the agreement, OpenX will promote Content Ads in two ways. First, OpenX will integrate Content Ads so that it can be used by publishers who sign up for OpenX Market to better monetize their pages. The company will also build a plug-in to OpenX Ad Server so existing publisher customers can more easily sign up for Content Ads and implement it on their Web site(s). OpenX is the first reseller approved by Microsoft to build a plug-in for Content Ads.
Content Ads is Microsoft’s competitor for Google AdSense and this agreement is an easy way to add ad volume among third party publishers. It is a natural alliance, since big dog Google has their own free in-house competitor for (hosted) OpenX functionality in Google Ad Manager which naturally provides easy serving of Google’s own AdSense ads.
Bigger publishers would probably set their sights higher than either of the above solutions by using Microsoft’s aQuantive products or Google’s DoubleClick. Still the small publisher business is lucrative and not to be disdained – a view that Microsoft only slowly adopted.