Microsoft Goes Blogging

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Microsoft has quietly launched a Web logging, or blogging, service targeted at tech-savvy people in their teens and 20s, but the service is apparently open to anybody.

The service is called TheSpoke and is part of Microsoft's Academic Developer initiative, a Microsoft spokesperson said Tuesday. The site was created by Singapore-based marketing services company Earth9 and went live last week, said a spokesperson for Smooth Fusion, the Lubbock, Texas, company that hosts for Microsoft.

Microsoft's Academic Developer initiative is focused on building a community of students interested in software development, the Microsoft spokesperson said. TheSpoke is in a test phase and more features will be added, he said, adding that the site is not intended to be competition for blogging services such as Google's Blogger.

Microsoft has set up specific Web log communities, mostly for people with more than an average interest in Microsoft software such as the GotDotNet blogs, but does not offer a mass market blog service.

For the Mass Market

TheSpoke looks to be more of a mass-market effort. The first members, dubbed Hubbers, for the site were recruited with postings on Web sites for gamers. In one such recruitment posting, apparently from the team setting up TheSpoke, the call to join goes out to any opinionated young person wanting to blog about technology and gaming.

"TheSpoke is an online community for young leaders that are tech savvy and opinionated. TheSpoke provides tools to collaborate, discuss and debate the future of technology," said the recruitment posting, published November 8 on an Xbox enthusiast Web site.

Joe Wilcox, a Washington, D.C.-based Jupiter Research senior analyst, doesn't see TheSpoke as a threat to other blog services, but rather as a tool for Microsoft to win support from young software developers who might otherwise choose to work on projects that compete with Microsoft.

"While there is a blogging component, TheSpoke is not a blogging site. Creating this kind of community is a longstanding Microsoft approach, particularly when it comes to building relations with developers," he said. "Considering that academia is fertile ground for Mac and other Unix and Linux development, Microsoft is wise to provide alternative resources like TheSpoke, where student developers can gather and build a community."

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