Microsoft announced the alpha preview of a social-networking initiative, Project Emporia, being developed through its FUSE Labs. The application gives users the ability to browse information on Twitter most relevant to their needs, and refine their experience through a "like/dislike" recommender system. Since its inception in October 2009, FUSE Labs has pursued the development of social connectivity, real-time experiences and rich media software and services.
Microsoft announced May 27 a new social-networking
initiative, dubbed "Project Emporia," developed through its FUSE Labs. Currently
offered in Alpha Preview, the application lets users monitor Twitter streams in
real time without needing an actual Twitter account.
"Project Emporia enables a personalized search experience
over publically available social network data," reads an explanation on the
project's Website. "It lets people browse, find, and discover highly
relevant information on topics they are interested in from the flood of content
on Twitter-without the need to select Twitter feeds or follow people on
Project Emporia filters Twitter feeds through "Lenses," or
subject categories, such as technology, entertainment, sports, news and
business. Within those Lenses, a like/dislike recommender system allows the
user to refine which Twitter threads they find particularly interesting. However,
the ability to use that like/dislike system is currently limited to FUSE
Users can also search a particular Lens by keyword, and
receive links to Websites cited most often by relevant Tweets. A profile page
displays the user's like/dislike history.
In October 2009, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray
Ozzie announced the creation of FUSE Labs to explore "social connectivity,
real-time experiences and rich media" software and services in both a business
and consumer context.
In an Oct. 8, 2009, internal memo leaked to various news outlets,
Ozzie wrote that FUSE Labs would "bring more coherence and capability to those
advanced development projects where they're already actively collaborating with
product groups to help them succeed with -leapfrog' efforts." While initial
plans for FUSE Labs involved about 80 employees from three different
development groups, including Massachusetts-based Microsoft Startup Labs, an
update on the Project Emporia Website indicates the unit now has around 40
In the internal memo, Ozzie suggested that FUSE Labs would
serve as a way to quickly capitalize on social computing opportunities
developed by Microsoft Research and other divisions: "The lab will prioritize
efforts where its capabilities can be applied to areas where the company's
extant missions, structures, tempo or risk might otherwise cause us to miss a
material threat or opportunity."
That initiative has resulted in a handful of projects,
including the recently announced Docs for Facebook, an online applications
platform beta that lets Facebook users create and share Word, Excel and
The application, built by FUSE Labs over the course of four
months, fuses cloud-based document editing with a Facebook network. After
navigating to Docs.com, users can view
documents being shared by their friends, or upload a new document. Facebook
friends can then view or edit each other's work, with the application giving
the user granular control over the level of access.
"The fact that we've been able to adapt the Office 2010 -Web
Apps' technology to work directly with Facebook truly speaks to the flexibility
and power not just of the Facebook platform, but also of the Office system's
rich -contextual collaboration' capabilities," Lili Cheng, director of FUSE
Labs, wrote April 21 on the
FUSE Labs blog.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.