Microsoft will start testing an Internet video-sharing service
called Soapbox, the software company’s answer to Web sensation YouTube. Soapbox
is one facet of Microsoft’s strategy to create attractive Internet content to
lure away billions of Web advertising dollars from market leaders Google Inc.
and Yahoo Inc. Offering everything from funny home videos to clips from old
TV shows, YouTube sprang out of nowhere late last year as an entertainment break
for millions of broadband Web surfers. In August, the site had 34 million visitors,
according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

Soapbox will be offered to a limited number of users during an invitation-only
test phase, but Microsoft said it will go fully live as a part of MSN Video
within six months. In a departure from its past strategy of
restricting MSN Video to its Internet Explorer browser and Windows Media Player,
Microsoft will make Soapbox available for various browsers including Mozilla
Firefox and Apple Computer Inc.’s Safari.
The runaway success of free-to-view online video sites has raised the question
of whether rights holders such as music, TV and movie companies should be compensated,
even if clips are uploaded by users.

Microsoft will start testing an Internet video-sharing service
called Soapbox, the software company’s answer to Web sensation YouTube. Soapbox
is one facet of Microsoft’s strategy to create attractive Internet content to
lure away billions of Web advertising dollars from market leaders Google Inc.
and Yahoo Inc. Offering everything from funny home videos to clips from old
TV shows, YouTube sprang out of nowhere late last year as an entertainment break
for millions of broadband Web surfers. In August, the site had 34 million visitors,
according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

Soapbox will be offered to a limited number of users during an invitation-only
test phase, but Microsoft said it will go fully live as a part of MSN Video
within six months. "We’re definitely not blind to the fact that YouTube has a big lead right
now," said Rob Bennett, general manager of MSN’s entertainment and video
services. "It’s really early days in online video. This is still act one."

Microsoft’s late arrival into the crowded video-sharing market, following offerings
from Google, Yahoo, Time Warner Inc.’s AOL unit and News Corp.’s social networking
site MySpace. Last month, Sony agreed to pay $ 65 million to buy video-sharing
site Grouper.com. Focused on original programming and clips from broadcast partners,
MSN Video was once the most popular Internet video site until fans of user-generated
content propelled YouTube, MySpace and Google past Microsoft in recent months.

The runaway success of free-to-view online video sites has raised the question
of whether rights holders such as music, TV and movie companies should be compensated,
even if clips are uploaded by users. In a departure from its past strategy of
restricting MSN Video to its Internet Explorer browser and Windows Media Player,
Microsoft will make Soapbox available for various browsers including Mozilla
Firefox and Apple Computer Inc.’s Safari.