updated 02:10 pm EDT, Tue September 26, 2006
Microsoft has been criticized in the past for its slowness in acknowledging the success of web-based services that aren't under its control: Windows Live Spaces has done little to usurp MySpace's hold on social networks, while YouTube rival Soapbox is still in a public testing stage. A sign that Microsoft is willing to take a more aggressive approach was revealed today by its introduction of a second, more advanced social networking site. Named Wallop, the new site is the offspring of Microsoft's research labs and promises a more experimental format than any of its challengers. A relatively new addition is live chat: users can socialize with each other live in the web browser. Page owners can similarly change the layout of their sites visually without having to use the code sometimes required on other networks. More radical still is the business model. Instead of the advertising that dominates MySpace, Wallop asks users to buy some of the animation and music elements that customize their homepages for between $1 and $4 each. The company hopes that the more competitive socialites will be willing to occasionally pay for the privilege of a more individualized space. Access is currently limited to e-mail requests and invitations from the company and other members, resembling the format once used by the college-only Facebook.