Microsoft turns into a social network?

(from Nic Brisbourne’s blog)

NB: I can’t actually try it, of course – Microsoft is still subscribing to the classic anti-Web 2.0 ideal of making it “zero information from our walled-garden until you pass a detailed user-verification process; visitors will be shot; guests are not welcome here”.

The interesting piece for me is that they are inferring the social graph from Instant Messenger. It has long seemed sensible to me that building from existing social graphs (email, IM, phone records etc.) is a better way to go than building a new one from scratch as we have all been doing on Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn etc., although there are many tricky issues around service design. Google and Microsoft think the same way according to this Techcrunch post of a year ago, although we have yet to see thought translated into action.

Yeah … we wanted to do the exact same thing with MMO publisher data when I was at NCsoft. Given how much you know about subscribers, you can infer some extremely valuable stuff (that is much harder for people like Google/Microsoft/etc to piece together). Turned out there were a lot of internal political problems in the way (something I’ll be talking about at GDC 2009: “How to sell social networking to your boss / publisher”) that really came down to a handful of extremely powerful people not getting it / not caring. It was an … interesting … journey learning what they didn’t get, and why, and how to dance around that.

(PS: all the above is assuming “without breaking privacy / data-protection laws”; if you’re reasonably well-moralled, you can provide a lot of value while being well inside the law; I have little sympathy for organizations that run roughshod all over the Data Protection stuff – IME you really don’t need to)

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