Microsoft takes on YouTube with "Soapbox"

Redmond (WA) - Planning to take advantage of the wildly popular video sharing sites, Microsoft has launched its own online video hosting service, further adding to the number of Internet companies that are trying to emulate the extreme popularity of YouTube.

Officially titled "Soapbox on MSN Video", the user-driven platform will expand on the existing MSN Video service, which previously had only hosted official videos of various entertainment areas, such as news stories from MSNBC, clips from live music concerts, and movie trailers.

Much like YouTube, the defined leader of online video sharing, Soapbox will allow users to comment on other posted videos, rate them, and have embedded linking to blogs and other Web sites.

For now, Soapbox is available on a beta, invitation-only basis, though according to the Associated Press, MSN has said that it will be distributed to a wider audience "very quickly". MSN hopes that their service can provide a more engaging experience for users than what is offered by competitors' sites.

YouTube said in July that more than 100 million videos are streamed every day on their site, with tens of millions of videos already posted. MSN would have a long way to go to catch up with them, but Rob Bennett, general manager of MSN's entertainment and video services unit, says YouTube just provides the "primitive", bare bones approach, to video viewing and sharing. MSN Soapbox will reportedly have a larger embedded screen to watch videos, and there will also be more online networking opportunities with friends and online acquaintances, according to Bennett.

According to the AP story, up to 100 megabytes of file size for a video will be allowed, which is on par with YouTube and Yahoo! Video, and will have wide support. Soapbox will run on Apple or Windows computers, is available on Internet Explorer and Firefox, and will accept most major media formats, including Windows Media Player and QuickTime. However, MSN Video still requires an Internet Explorer browser for the software download.