Today, we're looking at another free alternative: MSN Spaces.
Like Blogger, MSN Spaces is owned by a huge company; Blogger is owned by Google while MSN Spaces is owned by Microsoft. So, if Blogger's big owner turns you off, you'll likely be turned off by MSN Spaces. Conversely, if you're not bothered by the big company owner of Blogger, you likely won't be bothered by the big company owner of MSN Spaces.
Enough Of That, How Does It Stack Up?
MSN Spaces overcomes some of the real or perceived shortcomings of Google.
- You don't have to republish the entire blog for small edits. Even large changes to appearance are handled by .NET server technology. That is, much of the formatting information appears to be stored in ASP variables, so changes are written to the database and don't need to be written to one or more files.
- MSN Spaces supporting categories. In addition to the default categories provided, you can add your own, up to 25.
- TrackBack support is built-in. While Blogger's Backlinks leverage Google's search to automatically (thought not immediately) display sites that link to your Blogger blog, MSN Spaces doesn't do any such thing. Rather, the traditional, more widely-supported TrackBack technology of SixApart is used. And preferred by many.
- The ability to scroll through lists of posts overcomes the 300-post limit on the edit page that Google/Blogger has
- Beginners don't have the same difficulty in editing the Templates. It's fairly easy to make changes, but not as many changes can be make. In Blogger, you can literally make lots of changes, limited only by your HTML/CSS knowledge.
- Service disruptions aren't perceived to be an issue with MSN Spaces. Whether or not that's an accurate perception, MSN Spaces doesn't have the reputation for being down nearly as often as Blogger.
- There is a window-esque, drop-and-drag interface to use when creating a blog. After all, it's a Microsoft product, as is Windows.
Although those Blogger issues are addressed with MSN Spaces, other issues remain:
- Not offering extended entry functionality ("More..." or "Click to continue...")
- Lack of variety in Templates or Template selection is limited. In fact, more so than Blogger.
- Unhappy with the general appearance of Templates. In MSN Spaces, they do have a professional look, but it's a cookie-cutter professional look.
- Fixed width Templates are the norm for MSN Spaces.
- No ability to moderate (as opposed to delete) comments. And once you delete a comments, it's gone.
- Inability to schedule posts for future publishing.
- "Second class blog" stigma / must have a "spaces.msn.com" URL, similar to Blogger's "blogspot.com" URL
Problems or Limitations of MSN Spaces
There are some things about MSN Spaces that you'll encounter that you don't encounter with Blogger.
For example, anyone can access your Blogger blog. However, Microsoft requires people sign in to Passport to view your site. Because of that, it's more of a "community" than a public blogging platform.
The upside is that if someone trolls your blog, at least you've forced them to log in and can attempt to use that information when reporting such activity to Microsoft.
Finally, the biggie: I can't find a way to add Alliance information to your site. Which means that, despite its overcoming of many of Blogger's real or perceived limitations, you can't meet all the requirements for joining the Alliance. And, without that, there's no way I can recommend MSN Spaces.