It’s been in talks since September 2006, but MSN finally launched a public beta of SoapBox (source: DigitalTrends). Although MSN has about 10% of the search market (compared to Google and Yahoo’s combined share of more than 80%), it does have the advantage of being backed by the world’s largest software company. While the world probably doesn’t need another user-generated video site, Microsoft might make Soapbox fly with sheer marketing might.
There actually are some features that make Soapbox unique:
- Soapbox allows users simultaneously to watch videos and browse for new ones on the same screen. Something nice for those of us with vADHD. The result, however, is less of a community feel and more of a broadcast feel (like Yahoo! Video or AOL Uncut).
- You can upload more formats than most sites: AVI, ASF, WMV, MOV, MPEG1/2/4, 3GPP, or DV file formats. And get this. While it’s uploading you can continue to surf the site (that’s extremely rare).
- You can view them on Window’s Media Player (that still around?) or Flash. No Quicktime.
- The interface is ‘perty (albiet not user centric). The player controls are very smooth. Videos appear to stream rapidly, but we also know that not many people are using it yet.
And now for some complaints.
- When you select a video, the URL doesn’t change. That makes it difficult to link to specific videos. Only a savvy user will realize that you have to select “share” and copy the URL manually. So, for example, I can share this video of William laughing. But almost thought the feature was missing.
- In a similar flaw, the URL doesn’t change based on the section of the site you’re in. So I can’t send you directly to the comedy category.
- Sniff, sniff. I don’t smell any advertising revenue sharing. Hisssss.
- No Quicktime viewing. Windows Media? Isn’t that obsolete?
- Can’t download videos.
- The comments are buried. Half the fun of YouTube is the dialogue around the comments. But Soapbox takes more of a broadcast model like Yahoo Video or AOL Uncut (where people almost never comment). We’ll probably see very little community build around Soapbox.