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Microsoft to take on YouTube

"Soapbox," which made its beta debut Tuesday, is a place for uploading home footage on MSN Video. Images: Up on the Soapbox Soapbox is no threat to YouTube, yet

Microsoft on Tuesday launched a beta version of a new service that lets people upload videos of their cats dancing, babies laughing and teenagers playing air guitar.

Microsoft's new Soapbox on MSN Video site takes on the popular site YouTube, which has become an online sensation for viral and homegrown user-generated video. Also crowding the online video market are Google Video, Yahoo Video and Revver.


Soapbox on MSN Video, code-named Warhol, will eventually be integrated with Windows Live Messenger to allow people to embed links to videos in instant messages and with Windows Live Spaces so people can include videos on their blogs. (To read a first impression of Soapbox from CNET Reviews' Rafe Needleman, .)

Users of Soapbox will be able to rate, comment on and tag the videos, create RSS feeds and share links with others via e-mail. They will also be able to embed the Soapbox player directly on to their Web site or blog.

There is a 100MB upload limit, but no limit on video length or number of videos a user can upload. Users will be able to make the video full screen for better viewing.

Rob Bennett, general manager of entertainment and video services at Microsoft, said MSN's 465 million visitors a month worldwide would help it give YouTube a run for its money, despite the start-up's established leadership.

"It's early in the market," he said. "There is no question they (YouTube) have an early lead...(but) there is still a lot of room for growth with innovation and competition," Bennett said.

He likened the situation to that of Microsoft's MSN Spaces, which rose to become the No. 1 blog Web site globally within a year of its launch in 2004.

Unlike YouTube, Soapbox will have no advertisements, but Bennett said Microsoft can monetize the video by showing it on the main MSN Video site or by creating a "viral video hub."

Bennett also showed off a "visualizer" video search tool for MSN Video's existing licensed content that lets people search for and browse video by seeing relationships between tagged items. The keyword clustering application was created by an intern and could become a feature on Soapbox, he said.