We’re leaving the “Beta tag” blanket at home. That’s right…thanks to your beta testing and feedback; we’ve now officially launched Windows Live Custom Domains. Our colleagues over in Messenger kicked off the Windows Live launch season last week. Along with the launch of OneCare and Live Favorites, we’re excited to continue the momentum. Windows Live is about the Web, the way you want it. Personalization is a key piece here, and let’s face it…your identity online is central to that. Custom Domains enables people to use all of the Windows Live and MSN services they want with an ID that’s as unique to them as they want it to be.
For those who aren’t familiar with Custom Domains, we provide free hosted e-mail for your domain. Let’s say you own the domain name, “wingtiptoys.com.” With Custom Domains, you get unlimited, free e-mail accounts at that domain. You can open accounts for email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc. Oh wait, did we mention that it’s free? This isn’t one of those “free during beta” trial offers. This is free for life.
New Feature: Open Membership
We’re jazzed about a new feature we’ve added called Open Membership. How does this work? Let’s say you run a website called “soccerfan.com.” Your users love your site and want an e-mail address @soccerfan.com. Prior to this launch, each user would have to request an e-mail account from the administrator. Then, the admin would manually approve and create each account. We’ve made things much easier all around with this launch.
With the Open Membership featured enabled, we provide URL links so users can automatically sign-up for an e-mail account @soccerfan.com. Admins no longer have to burden with the manual creation of email accounts, and users get accounts immediately. Users will love their new email because it’s a brand new MSN Hotmail or Windows Live Mail beta account with a highly personalized @soccerfan.com domain name. Web site owners will love it because their users help promote the site. Also, users will re-visit the host site often to check their e-mail.
I can think of a few serious downsides to providing on-demand email addresses at your domain to whoever drops by on the Web, but the general Custom Domains idea is fine.
This also reminds me that I have heretofore failed to mention that Windows Live Favorites is out of beta as well. It’s the service that allows you to store your browser favorites online.
Finally, the beta of Windows Live Local has added free calling to businesses that appear on your map displays:
A new release of Live Local went out over the weekend. Mostly minor bug fixes, but a few new features made it in as well. One of the more interesting is the ability to phone any business for free. Using it is easy – do a business search by name or category and in the result panel will be a ‘Call for Free’ link next to each business listing. Each pushpin popup on the map will also have the Call for free link. When you click it you specify your phone number -the system will dial both you and the business and connect you. Once you’ve made your first call, you can rapid dial businesses without having to re-enter your phone number.
It’s USA only for the moment and per LiveSide (where there are some screenshots) it is called “Windows Live Call for Free.”
I’m a little puzzled by the monetization of this feature, since Google is running a beta of the similar Click-to-Call in search results ads, but that’s for advertisers only which presumably covers the phone bill. (Yahoo is also testing a similar feature for local search advertisers.) Microsoft, however, seems to be paying the full tab on Call for Free, but without any direct offsetting revenue. Indirectly, of course, they are displaying ads on the page.