Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Microsoft Ready to Give Up on Its Would-Be YouTube, Too


Microsoft is willing to burn lots of cash as it stubbornly pursues its Internet strategy–it lost a staggering $575 million on its online business in the last quarter alone–but even Redmond has its limits. The company is finally confessing that Soapbox, the would-be YouTube it launched in 2006, is no YouTube. And it doesn’t sound that enthusiastic about keeping it going.

Microsoft (MSFT) Vice President Erik Jorgensen tells CNET that it is already going to scale back the site’s ambitions: Rather than let users upload whatever video they want, Soapbox is limiting user-gen uploads to specific categories it thinks it might be able to sell ads against–entertainment, finance, etc.

And the company is not even promising to keep that option open. “We haven’t decided whether you just continue to support it or whether it is too expensive and out of our focus to do,” Jorgensen tells Ina Fried.

My guess is the latter. Soapbox still exists, but I only know this because Ina says so. A Google search for Soapbox gets you to the main MSN video page. I had to resort to a Bing search to find the Soapbox section.

It’s an amazing turnabout, really. When Google (GOOG) bought YouTube for $1.6 billion in 2006, conventional wisdom was that user-generated video was the future, and that the age of “professional” video content was just about over. Three years later, those still in the Web video business–a pool that is shrinking daily–are doing their best to highlight how much stuff they have from grownup pros.

So treasure videos like this “funny dog” clip while you can.