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Monday, December 6, 2021

Microsoft issuing new Outlook social-network link

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In a move to marry its old-school Office product with the newer trends of the Net, Microsoft plans to issue beta software Wednesday that brings social-network information into

Outlook.

The product, called Outlook Social Connector, has been available in the Office 2010 beta. According to an Associated Press report, beta software to be released Wednesday will also work for Office 2003 and Office 2007.

Outlook Social Connector will let people see updates from a person’s Facebook and Twitter contacts. And in November, LinkedIn announced that it would be the first actual partner in the Microsoft program.

Social networking is a hot area of Internet activity, made hotter by the recent arrival of the Google Buzz service built into Gmail. But it can be tough for people to stay on top of information feeds at multiple social-networking sites; even if you can set up one service to republish updates from another service, conversation about those updates often takes place separately.

Providing a more central communication service is a challenge, though. There are differing communication protocols for different services–if those protocols are available at all–and most social-networking players are vying with each other to be the primary service that people frequent. And there are blurry boundaries between social-networking status updates, e-mails, and instant messages.

In the Outlook Social Connector case, Microsoft has some incumbent advantage because millions of people use Outlook. The Outlook Social Connector will let them read status updates in software they’re already accustomed to using, often continuously throughout the day.

However, Microsoft has some challenges. For one thing, the software doesn’t let people write status updates of their own, only read what others have written. For another, a lot of social activity takes place on the Web in a personal rather than professional context, and in that domain, Microsoft’s Hotmail service is arguably a better fit than Outlook.

One traditional Microsoft rival, Mozilla, is angling for a place at the center of people’s online social lives, too. The Mozilla Raindrop project is designed to create software for an online service for unified communications.

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