Blog Post

Live, Better Brand Than MSN

Microsoft’s Live Spaces initiative is getting a lot of buzz today, and rightfully so. The mass-market offering marries instant messaging, social networking (sort-of), Microsoft gadgets and blogging into what could be Cup-a-noodles of social apps. Techcrunch notes that Microsoft is phasing out the MSN brand, in favor of the “Live.”

This is a very smart move on part of Microsoft. MSN as a brand is tired and needs to be retired. It conjures up images of an also ran brand. Live, however, seems fresh and new. Online user behavior seems to show precisely that. (Windows) Live-branded services are doing much better for Microsoft that those weighed down by the MSN brand. A quick analysis of data on online member communities/destinations collected by Nielsen/Net Ratings (N/NR) shows that.


In US, N/NR says Windows Live had 29.8 million unique visitors, second only to MySpace, which attracted 36 million unique visitors, in the month of June 2006. MSN Spaces wasn’t in the top ten. In other countries Windows Live brand is doing even better. In Brazil, for instance, Windows Live had 7.6 million uniques, while MSN spaces had mere 1.7 million.

The most notable one is Australia, since Live Spaces had been in beta testing in that country, where some elements of Live Spaces were tested as part of MSN Spaces offering. (Thanks Dare who has a great post on the launch!) While it is hard to draw sweeping conclusions, it does seem when it comes to post-PC world, Microsoft is better off retiring its old MSN brand, and usher in the new Live era. (The complete comparisons are after the fold.)

11 Responses to “Live, Better Brand Than MSN”

  1. Jamie Nathan

    Oh I know theyre banking on the online ad thing; im a product of it and have just recently been recruited as part of the online services group. There is a huge increase in headcount in this area of the company.

    My point is more specifically on live.com; here you have the user being in control of the content, not Microsoft. That is a radical departure from the MSN model which was more of a push based scenario.

    What else is interesting is that the more people who use live.com, the less they use MSN.com, which has repercussions as to the amount of ad revenue we can make from the MSN business. Also, what happens when you log out of Hotmail? Its always placed you back in the MSN portal, garnering more page impressions and thus more ad revenue. But now that its Windows Live Messenger, surely it should place you in live.com after logging out. There are dozens more scenarios like these, which need to be figured out to avoid any overlap on the two brands. At the moment, I know the distinction, but for the business (us essentially selling ads to clients), it could be a little bit messy with the two brands and any overspill between them.

    Definitely interesting though. I think I joined the company at the right time, as did Niall.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. jamie,

    i was at the windows live debut conference in san francisco and one thing which became obvious and clear to me was that they were banking on online advertising, which is interesting because they really don’t have a track record of doing that stuff. it is strange to see them go in this direction. i bet they layer some paid services etc for premium users on top of this “live” offering.

  3. Jamie Nathan

    I agree on that. MSN is tired, stale and a brand screaming 90s to me. But that brings in the money in terms of Microsofts online business. I dont see where the monetisation from Live.com will come from just yet. Certainly, the homepage has content which the user brings to them via RSS feeds or Gadgets. Where is the opportunity to make money on this? At least with Search or MSN content we can tailor the ad campaigns to the respective channels or query results to maximise advertiser value.

    Its something the online services group, Ozzie and the rest of them will have to figure out. At best I see Live being a means to make Microsofts online operations sticky, keeping users on MS domains and thus giving us more oppotunity to aim ads at them, sign up for premium services etc. Only way to do this is to make our stuff real engaging. If you check the Nielsen stats, the average MySpace user spends far longer ont he site per month than on MSN Spaces, which draws people in for around 10 minutes according to the June data.

  4. dare, also those stats are for visits to the specific domains. this was part of an “online communities” for individual countries they had put together. it included all sorts of communities including social networks such as bebo and myspace and facebook, and yahoo geocities and msn groups and other such sites.

    even if the numbers aren’t the most accurate, the Live.com is reflective of a new era at Microsoft, and perhaps is a better brand going forward. I mean this is the kind of brand exercises non-tech companies always do, and benefit from it.

  5. Jamie Nathan

    The Windows Live figures for the UK (which I work in so am certain on), include all people who have used the domain http://login.live.com, which as you may know is the URL for the replacement to Passport (Live ID). So those figures probably include instances of Hotmail/Live Mail, Messenger logins etc. We are still awaiting verification from Nielsen on this but it definitely looks that way.

  6. Jamie Nathan

    I think you are getting your figures mixed up, though it is not your fault. Nielsen have made a bit of a mess of the transition from MSN to Windows Live. The figures you are quoting essentially include MSN / Windows Live Messenger now. This was because for Nielsens June data, they changed the MSN Messenger category to include Windows Live.

    The actual live.com domain gets very little traffic, and would probably remain to do so until IE7 is released and pushes it as a default.

  7. What the heck do those stats mean? What do they mean by Windows Live? Are they comparing the *.live.com domain with the *.msn.com domain? Are they comparing Windows Live branded apps against MSN branded ones?

    Either way, the stats seem pretty bogus.

    PS: Windows Live Spaces was not in beta testing in Australia. Some of its features were being tested as part of MSN Spaces.

  8. MSN is a pre-programmed content brand while Live.com is all about customizing and tweaking your own experience (MS speak).

    There will continue to be some MSN properties, but the majority of the services will move to Live. Three big sites have not made the move quite yet: video, music, and finance.