What’s up with Spaces: Evolving, or Dead Man Walking?

After what seems like years of silence over the status and fate of Windows Live Spaces, Senior Lead Program Manager Tony East blogged yesterday about the beleaguered blogging platform.  In “The Evolution of Windows Live Spaces”, East touches on the spam problem in Spaces, the changes (or lack thereof) in Wave 4, the evolution of how people are sharing content on the web, and in general offering up what can only be described as a “damning with faint praise” post on Spaces.  We’ve received tips of rumors (and we fully acknowledge that’s all they are at this point):

there is a rumor in the air that with Wave 4 the Live Spaces service will be discontinued or outsourced somewhere else.

If Spaces isn’t going to be discontinued, we’re not sure you could tell it from the Inside Windows Live post.  To begin with, Tony East lays out some of the numerous problems with Spaces:

Spam
If you’ve used Spaces at all during the past few years (and we do have a placeholder Spaces account for LiveSide, which we use mainly to keep tabs on its “progress”), you know that comment spam is a BIG problem.  In fact, after reading the latest on Spaces, we checked out our own Space, and found lots of comment spam.  The tools for deleting that spam have improved (although you still have to delete spam comments one at a time, a daunting task considering how much comment spam there is):

3568.spacescommentspam_thumb_6638f4e2 News

Microsoft has changed the default settings on blog posts from “Everyone” to “Friends”, which should help, but it doesn’t get rid of the vast amount of comment spam already on blog posts that either people gave up on or haven’t noticed.

Apparently a far bigger problem with spam in Spaces, one that Microsoft has been working hard to fix, has been with blogs set up specifically to distribute spam, and East has some eye opening statistics:

For example, during the heaviest period of attacks on Spaces, a spam-tracking website called Uribl attributed 1500 spam campaigns to web pages hosted on Spaces, each of these actively generating hundreds of thousands of Spaces spam attacks. As of this writing, we have blocked 99% of these spam campaigns, so now Uribl lists only 15 active spam campaigns on Spaces, all of which are fresh attacks that we are actively working to disable. Very shortly, we will put even more safeguards in place to ensure that fewer spam spaces get created, which will bring this number down even more.

Of course Spaces users have been clamoring and complaining for years about spam, and while it’s good to see Microsoft finally doing something about it, it’s deplorable that the situation was allowed to get so out of hand in the first place.

Changes to Spaces
East has been taking some heat both in the comments on his blog post and elsewhere for a position he takes early on:

Now that the new generation of Windows Live web services has been released, some of you have asked me why we didn’t make any changes to Spaces. Although we did not make many noticeable changes to the service, I wanted to do a blog post about Spaces within the broader context of Windows Live and show how Spaces has had, and continues to have, a big influence on our overall direction.

(emphasis ours)

One former Spaces blogger (now using Blogger) to take exception is Geoff Coupe:

Clearly, he’s living in some sort of parallel universe to me, and others like me who have been using Spaces as their blogging platform. In his world, Spaces is evolving; in our world it’s gone from being a viable platform for blogging to one that is the equivalent of a critically endangered species.

In the last few weeks, Microsoft has:

In addition, Microsoft has closed down all their blogs that were previously hosted on Spaces and transferred them over to the Telligent blogging platform. That includes the old Windows Live Team Blog. That seems clear to me that even Microsoft has little confidence in Spaces as a blogging platform from now on. As I’ve written elsewhere, there was a time when Microsoft had a proud boast that they ate their own dogfood.

(via Technogran)

Blogging vs. Sharing
East then goes on to describe how users have largely moved from personal blogs to easier better ways to share snippets and photos, and how Windows Live has made changes to reflect this.  All good, but what does it mean for Spaces?  He ends with a somewhat ominous “Looking Ahead”, considering that he just spent the previous paragraphs describing how Windows Live users don’t blog:

We will continue to look at how you use Spaces, as well as how you share online in general and on Windows Live, so that we can keep improving your core experiences on Windows Live.

What do you think?  Does Spaces have a future?  Is the handwriting on the wall?  Let us know in the comments, or vote in our new poll in the sidebar.