Photobucket or Flickr or Picasa may be the most high end platform for sharing pictures, but the truth remains the fact that Facebook is the most popular site where people share their pics. “The Facebook Photos application may or may not be the best, but it is the most popular, by an absurd factor,” notes Pat Kinsel. “More photos are uploaded to Facebook every month than have been uploaded to Flickr since the beginning. We want to understand what it is that makes Facebook Photos so popular, and whether we, in the lab, can make documents equally easy to share and collaborate on. That’s the key, driving question,”
Kinsel is under Microsoft, which has the world’s most popular document authoring programs, and includes powerful names like Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. He is the product manager of Microsoft FUSE Labs (an acronym for Future Social Experience), which is charged with the task of applying computing concepts which is social nature to Microsoft’s entertainment products and business.
It was earlier this year, when Kinsel and his working partners at the FUSE Labs started to toy with the idea of sharingdocuments on Facebook. They were intrigued with the fact that it might become as prevalent as sharing photos, After all it’s the same old Facebook, where users are sharing billions of new photos every single month. The final result of their brain storming is Docs.com.
In a nutshell, Docs.com is the latest version of Microsoft’s many other Office Web Apps made especially for the Facebook users. It, as already mentioned, is built by the small FUSE Labs team in Redmond, WA, and Cambridge, MA. The surprising thing is the fact that it was made in within just four months. Docs.com is a very unusual and yet a significant effort in the part of Microsoft.
Its unusualness firstly stems from the fact that, it’s a unique combination of softwares from two different companies: when the users will log into Docs.com, they will be using Palo Alto, which is the CA-based Face book’s authentication system. Again while creating; editing, and saving the documents, they will be using the cloud storage software which is created by Microsoft’s Windows Azure teams and Office Web Apps. Finally while sharing their documents with other users; they will be tapping into Face book’s Open Graph application programming interface. It’s a first of its kind keeping in mind that it’s the first time that Microsoft, the Software Scion has integrated one of its own products so much into another company’s Web infrastructure.
Secondly, Docs.com also represents a most dramatic foray into the consumer-level social sharing, by a company which has till now kept most of its social computing features restricted within its business software, like Share Point server and Office 2010 for collaborative Web publishing. Kinsel says that it has exploited the existing features of Azure, which is Microsoft’s cloud computing infrastructure. All said and done, Docs.com can be said to be a path breaking experiment for the company, one that will influence Microsoft’s product strategies in other markets also.
In the broader picture this could be a start to a nice healthy relationship with Facebook. Microsoft would also be connecting to more consumers online. To compete equally with the other powerful Web companies like Google on one hand to San Francisco start-up Cocoon on the other hand – it definitely and most badly needs to capture a Facebook-sized chunk of the Internet market. Collaborations in other areas like communication social search, and gaming, will also be in the cards.