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Search Blog

July
26

MSN Screensaver with Search & RSS

We launched a beta version of the MSN Screen Saver (you can find it at http://screensaver.msn.com) last week. It was built by a few people in our London team. There wasn’t really a business model behind this; someone had the idea to build this because it would be “cool for users” and so we let them go and build it.

So what’s the big deal about a screen saver? Well, it displays personalized content (news, weather, pictures) from the web or your hard-drive. Key features include:

Search Integration: use MSN Search right from your screensaver (of course! that's why I'm posting this here :-)

Personalized news (via RSS): choose MSN feeds or add your own RSS feeds. Mouse over headlines to see more info, or click to read the full story (if offline, content displays from local cache)

MSN Spaces Integration: display blogs and photos from your friend's Space.

Personal Photos: choose a local directory and the screensaver displays the images as background photos. Move back/fwd/pause w/ buttons or using the left & right arrow keys and the P key.

Weather: see current weather and 4-day forecast for your location (US only)

Messenger & Hotmail integration: see count of unread emails and # of current Messenger conversation windows open. Hide Hotmail/Messenger info if your computer is in a public area.

We’re really excited about the buzz that the MSN Screen Saver has created. We’ve already seen a large number of downloads - mainly by word of mouth/blogs. And we’re listening to both the good and bad feedback. It’s all very important to us and we really want to learn from it and build a better and more useful product.

In fact, this morning we reviewed all the feedback we’ve had (and seen) so far and came up with our prioritized backlog for the next sprint. I’m really excited about the next round of features/changes (which we’ll release ASAP) and I think we may even delight some of the people who really slated us! :-)

Please keep the feedback coming – it is really important to us and we do listen to it.

Omer Khan, MSN Portal, Group Manager

 

Comments

  • Issues:

    - Proxy support?
    - admin config required, you cant install it and let the user set it up.. it wont start unless the admin of the pc started it.

    to be honest, for a microsoft product it seems very bad not to have done the admin-normal user testing (microsoft antispyware has simmilar issues with admin-user rights)

    how can you expect other companies to ship software that doenst write in the windows and the program files folder if you dont do it yourself...

    very dissapointed...

    (but I love the desktop search, changed the way I look at my system, good job on that)
  • Why has no one tried to make screensavers... well, useful? MSN Search has finally given us reason to get ride of those annoying 3D flying pipes!

    The new MSN Screen Saver allows you to personalize it with real content, including search integration. You can also add RSS feeds of your choosing, local weather, and your own personal photos.
  • The interesting thing is the RSS feeds to me... Google just personalized user's homepage with RSS access when you "Add Content" (which I read I don't know how many times yesterday) but it doesn't accept my feed links, MSN did. I so wanted to get that off my chest...
  • Brilliant and Practical Idea! - Why did it take so long to be conceived...?

    Wonder how long it took from Conception to Completion?

  • I remember a bitter Pointcast employee posting an "MS sucks" note atop their site when IE 4.0 "channels" hammered nails into their coffin.
    I like these ideas, especially myw3b, and am glad they're being distributed to all.
    Surely a natural extension of this would be to have the screensaver play podcasts, displaying notes or playlists.
  • Great. A few comments:
    - Konfabulator. Can I? Please?
    - How does it work on multiple monitors?
    - What about multiple monitors with different sizes?
    - How about running it on my 2nd monitor while I still use my primary one for other apps?
    - How much local/network resource (would a couple of people running this kill our corporate Internet bandwidth)?

    By the way, the informational screensaver idea is quite old:
    - PointCast, as someone else mentioned.
    - A dozen of academic research papers (I remember one from AT&T Lab).
    - "Buzz", "What's Happening", and even the "InfoCanvas" are sort of related... See <A REF="http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/ii/">this link</A>.

    Thanks.
    - gpd
  • Hmm... Here's the link again:

    http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/ii/

    Thanks.
    - g
  • Looking at Apple again? RSS screensavers were introduced in Tiger.
  • Can it support one piece of news at a time? I don't like to have to mouse-over to see the details -- can it just show one news article or one item from the feed, with whatever associated images next to it? More recent news should be shown more frequently...

    Sometimes the image is the news -- no text needed.

    Can someone give a comparison between this and the MacOS one? I don't have access to a Mac.

    Thanks.
    Alex
  • The interesting thing is the RSS feeds to me... Google just personalized user's homepage with RSS access when you "Add Content" (which I read I don't know how many times yesterday) but it doesn't accept my feed links, MSN did
  • Well a very good idea. But why, why a screensaver? I mean why not an Active Desktop item? A screensaver needs to be activated. And for that you need to wait or fiddle with the timing or something. Screensavers are not for rich content and such features. Why don't you make an Active Desktop item that does all that and add it to the Active Desktop galery. Afterall, why do we have Active Desktop? Just for decoration?
    I believe that all these features you mention are great. But users will need to use them whenever they like and a screensaver does not fulfill that model of usage. Is it really difficult to make it into an Active Desktop item as well? I am sure that if you do that many users will in fact install it and use it on their desktop daily. It would raise the value of Windows Desktop as well, since Active Desktop has unfortunately and until now been underused. I am sure it is easy for you to make an activex item from the screensaver that will install on the Active Desktop. So, why not?
  • Please, include OPML support for RSS! So far the RSS integration looks good but do you want me to import 100 URLs one by one!? ;-(

    Cheers ~ Arne
  • Weather has not updated since 7/31
  • We'll be releasing an updated version of the beta next week (which includes a fix for the weather).