Windows Live update ships: After years of waiting, we create a Group :)

First, congratulations to our friends at Windows Live for shipping a great looking new set of products today: a new fresh Spaces and Events, Windows Live People, Windows Live Profile, and Photos, along with what’s sure to become our new favorite Windows Live service – Windows Live Groups.  You can read more about the releases on The Space Craft, where there are further links to more in depth posts by the Windows Live teams.  Be sure to stop by and congratulate them on a job well done.

While we’re excited about all of the new and refreshed services, the truth is we’ve had our hands on pre-release bits for most of these services already, and while we haven’t had a chance to see the new Spaces or Photos until today, they’re not essentially new services.  But that doesn’t hold true for Windows Live Groups.

Damaster waxed a bit nostalgic the other day on some old concepts we’d seen floating around, and how they’ve finally come to pass.  Among those, called early on “Circles”, if we’ve got our top secret naming right, is what will now and hopefully forever be known as Windows Live Groups.  As you may know, LiveSide is an international affair, with writers in Seattle, London and the UK, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, the Netherlands, and Australia, and even Shanghai if you count our “cousin” LiveSino.net.  We would be lost without Windows Live Messenger, but to be honest Messenger just doesn’t quite cut it, especially with the time zones we span.  We’ve been waiting for Groups for a long time.

So today, for the first time, we created one.  Our first experience, after heading to www.groups.live.com, was to create the group itself:

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Simple page, looks like a few new themes to choose from, and fortunately we’ve been through all the pain of url renaming, so it’s just www.mygroup.groups.live.com, and likely to stay that way.

We name our group, choose a theme, and we’re off!

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Notice the bottom checkbox, it’s important:

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If you want to set up group conversations, don’t turn this off, from the looks of it.

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We’ve expected all of the functionality here: seamless connection to Messenger, granular membership options, a section for photos and a SkyDrive for files, and a group Calendar.  Having it all come together, and with nice touches like a What’s New page for the group, a discussion area, a group email address ([email protected]), and options like the ability to set a group icon, is something close to a dream come true.  This is good stuff.