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Microsoft gives up YouTube chase

The software maker plans to scale back Soapbox, its little-known site for user generated video content.

SAN FRANCISCO--In the coming months, Microsoft plans to significantly scale back Soapbox, the video site it once hoped might take on YouTube in the user-generated content arena.

In an interview on Tuesday, Microsoft Vice President Erik Jorgensen said Soapbox is one of the areas that Microsoft is pulling back on in the wake of a tough economic environment. His unit also recently pulled the plug on Microsoft Money, the company's personal finance software product.

Soapbox launched in 2006--the same year Google announced its deal to buy YouTube--but never emerged as a significant threat to the market leader. (See video, left, for a review from Soapbox's early days.)

In 2007, Microsoft stopped allowing new users to access the site while it added filtering technology aimed at reducing the amount of copyright content posted on its site. It returned a few months later, but has been largely an afterthought in the video market, except as a home for Microsoft's own videos.

Microsoft hopes to transform Soapbox, originally code-named Warhol, from an also-ran in the user-generated content space into a forum where bloggers and citizen journalists can post videos relevant to areas in which MSN focuses, categories like entertainment, lifestyle, and finance.


"We definitely look at it and say we want Soapbox to stand for something and add to our overall video strategy," he said, noting that being a broad user-generated video player was too expensive in light of the current economy.

While Microsoft will focus on such content, it's still unclear whether it will continue to allow users to freely upload their videos or if it will require some sort of editorial selection of the movies before they make it onto the site.

"We haven't decided whether you just continue to support it or whether it is too expensive and out of our focus to do," he said.