Microsoft to Kill Soapbox, Its YouTube Competitor

Microsoft announces plans to shut down Soapbox, its online video competitor to YouTube, by the end of August. Despite Soapbox, Microsoft had only 2 percent of the online video market, placing it fifth behind Yahoo, Hulu, Fox Interactive Media and Google. As Microsoft readjusts its corporate strategy during the recession, it has been killing a number of legacy programs, including Popfly, Encarta and Money Plus.

Microsoft will shut down Soapbox, its online-video competitor to YouTube, by the end of August. The decision follows weeks of publicly acknowledged debate over whether to continue operating the portal, which delivered Microsoft a paltry share of the online video market.

According to a Microsoft statement July 21, users will be cease to be able to upload new videos to Soapbox on July 29. Microsoft is encouraging those who want to keep their videos to download them from Soapbox by Aug. 31, when the site will shut down for good.

"We will be communicating to our valued Soapbox community using several different methods to ensure that people are able to keep any video that is important to them," said the Microsoft statement. "Online video will remain a key part of the MSN offering."

Microsoft had been internally debating whether to kill the video-sharing site, which it launched via its MSN portal in December 2006, saying in a June 17 statement that it was "currently evaluating what the Soapbox brand means to MSN and how it relates to our content strategy."

The statement continued, "Online video is a key part of the MSN experience. We remain committed to delivering amazing experiences for consumers while at the same time keeping a keen eye on our business objectives [in] this tough economic climate."

But in a June 16 interview with CNet, Microsoft Vice President Erik Jorgensen made it seem as if Soapbox's days were more definitively numbered. According to a ComScore report, Microsoft had 2 percent of the online video market in March, putting it in fifth place behind Yahoo, Hulu, Fox Interactive Media and Google, which had a 40.9 percent market share.

The combination of the global recession and Microsoft's readjustment of its corporate goals has meant death for several of Microsoft's legacy programs, even as the company gears up to release the next generation of its flagship products, such as Windows 7 and Office 2010.

For example, Microsoft plans to shut down Popfly, its development tool for nonprogrammers looking to create their own applications and Web pages, in mid-August.

"With Popfly, Microsoft set out to do something new," Microsoft said in a July 16 statement published on the TechFlash blog. "However, like many companies, the economic situation has caused us [to] refocus and to reevaluate our priorities; while successful and popular, Popfly is not part of our refocused strategy."

Popfly's lead developer, John Montgomery, suggested in a corporate blog post that those seeking to code Web applications and games would have a variety of remaining options to choose from, including Microsoft Web Platform Installer and Microsoft Kodu. However, Popfly's ability to let users snap together code "blocks" without needing to program made development easier for a subset of the online community.

On June 11, Microsoft announced that it would stop offering Money Plus, its personal finance software, citing increased competition. In a nod to the large numbers of people still using Money to organize money-related matters, Microsoft plans to continue online support services for active customers through "at least" January 2011.

"With banks, brokerage firms and Websites now providing a range of options for managing personal finances, the consumer need for Microsoft Money Plus has changed," read Microsoft's statement on the matter. "Demand for a comprehensive personal finance tool set has declined."

A few months earlier, in March, Microsoft also announced that it would be shutting down Encarta, its 16-year-old encyclopedia software, in the face of increasing competition from free, collaborative encyclopedia sites such as Wikipedia.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated with a comment from Microsoft.