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Microsoft makes SkyDrive storage faster, cleaner

Software giant uses HTML5 and other modern browser technology to boost performance for its cloud-based storage service.

Microsoft is updating its SkyDrive cloud-based storage service, providing a zippier experience by using HTML5 technology as well as hardware acceleration.

The software giant boasts that common tasks, such as clicking on folders and navigating photo albums, will take 100 to 300 milliseconds, down from as long as nine seconds in the earlier version. And by powering the site with HTML5, Microsoft is able to include HTML5 Video, CSS3, and client rendered experiences.

"Browser modernization has really opened up the window for us to rethink and re-architect how we build our websites," SkyDrive Group Program Manager Omar Shahine wrote in a blog post. "While we have always focused on improving the performance of our websites, it was clear that we had reached a point where the kinds of performance gains we were hoping for would not come without an assessment of our entire experience from the ground up. SkyDrive has been around since 2007 and was simply not built for the modern web."

Microsoft's SkyDrive photo display Microsoft

Many of SkyDrive's 100 million users worldwide store photos on the service, and Microsoft has changed the design of that feature. It now has a mosaic display that lets users see photos in their original aspect ratio. And using CSS3 Transitions, SkyDrive rearranges the collection of photo thumbnails into a square whenever the browser window is resized.

Also, the thumbnails show up as portraits, landscapes or panoramas, depending on how the user took the shot. And SkyDrive also offers infinite scrolling, eliminate pages in the photo viewing experience.

Microsoft also revamped SkyDrive navigation, putting photos, documents, and other files on the service into one view. The idea was to use the common file system that familiar to users from the Windows and Mac operating systems.

The update comes as Microsoft works to make SkyDrive more relevant and useable in an ever-more connected world. Earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled the option to share photos stored on SkyDrive via e-mail, text, and instant messenger, as well as the ability to upload videos to the service.

Microsoft faces a growing list of tough competitors in the space, including Google and Apple, which unveiled its iCloud service at its Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month.