Microsoft is becoming the latest company aiming to bring blogging to the masses with a free new tool that lets people easily set up Web journals.
MSN Spaces, which debuts in test form Thursday, is targeted at home users who want to share things like vacation pictures, text journals or a list of favorite songs. The service, free to anyone with a Hotmail e-mail or MSN Messenger account, is part of Microsoft’s effort to keep people in a Microsoft-branded universe for all their online communication needs.
Microsoft rival AOL has provided its members with a tool since mid-2003, and search engine leader Google Inc. — another key Microsoft compeditor — offers a free service through its site. Movable Type offers the popular TypePad service, starting at $4.95 a month.
Michael Gartenberg, research director with Jupiter Research, said he thinks Microsoft has learned from where it initially missed the boat on some technologies, such as Web search, that it’s important to offer consumers these products early, or risk losing them to rival services.
Although Microsoft is trailing Google and AOL, Gartenberg said it’s not too late since blogging is only just catching on with mainstream users.
The final version of MSN Spaces is expected by next June. For now, Irving said the company plans to keep MSN Spaces as a free service, but he wouldn’t rule out the idea of creating a paid, premium blog service down the road.

[Source: USA Today]