Microsoft Launches Project Emporia, Twitter Tool

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 Twitter."

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 employees.

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 employees.

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 PowerPoint documents.

The application, built by FUSE Labs over the course of four months, fuses cloud-based document editing with a Facebook network. After navigating to, 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.