MSN Soapbox sucks.
There. I said it. Deal Microsoft.
It’s interface is difficult to read, strangely coloured, cumbersome. Navigation is finicky, at best – and the general layout of the site is described best as… “ermahwa?!”.
They made a valiant effort though. Don’t misinterpret me, they obviously put effort into it. However, in the usual Microsoft fashion, they put effort in the wrong places.
Soapbox, or as it is properly known, “Soapbox on MSN Video”, is, at its simplest, a video sharing site. Microsoft however – like Google and Yahoo, wishes for so much more from their site. They’ve labeled it as a place to share your opinions and thoughts (a take on the Soapbox title). They’ve given the site a prominent comments feature, tagging, easy sharing, categories, and rating. From a description alone, it seems like YouTube – and really it is. Microsoft offers up no new feature, no smoking gun that would make me drop a YouTube/Google Video allegiance.
There is no downloading of videos, no “rich tagging”, no pre-roll ads with profit sharing – e.g. nothing to make Soapbox unique.
Actually — I take that back. There is one thing that sets Soapbox apart, it’s crappy interface.
Soapbox on MSN Video has a terrible interface. Microsoft have been experimenting a lot recently with interface design, seeing what kinds of things they can pull off – such as the “ribbon” in Microsoft Office 2007 (which has already been determined a success, and I agree). This interface however is terrible.
Navigation between pages is done largely via a Flash object on the left of the page. Why this is done is beyond me – we’re at a point where simple text and some advanced web code could do the exact same thing. Unfortunately, Microsoft disagrees and added this cumbersome system to the page. It almost acts like an Apple dock, with the text enlarging as you roll over it (a Freudian slip perhaps).
One feature I do like is how they position the video so it is always in view, regardless of which page you navigate to. It seems that they’ve separated the site into two sections, a right side for video display and a left for content such as search results and browsing. Unfortunately, as nifty as the right side is, navigation on the left is a pain.
There are many smaller annoyances too that I’m sure Microsoft will iron out such as text size, colour, margin and padding issues (too much, not enough, etc.). I’m also a bit disheartened that Microsoft haven’t embraced relative positioning and dynamic widths so the page will fit all monitor resolutions. This would help out their unique interface for sure!
All in all, I can safely say that while MSN Soapbox gave a worthy effort, it is not worth serious use. Of course you’ll want to stop at the site as part of your uploading trip when you release a new video to maximize your audience, but for daily use and communication with fans YouTube is more ideal. The fact that videos are instantly posted, comments can be threaded (somewhat), and the interface is a tad more polished make it and (sorry, it’s tough when YouTube is so big!) it’s competitors such as Google Video and Y! Video more reasonable choices.
Visit soapbox.msn.com, invitation required.