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In the US a soapbox derby is a go-kart race, and with Microsoft's launch of its Soapbox video service it's certainly racing to catch up with YouTube.

Microsoft has launched a beta version of Soapbox on the MSN Video service which allows internet users to upload and share homemade films. Aside from far and away market leaders YouTube and Google Video, Microsoft is a late entrant in a race that already features competitors such as AOL and MySpace.

Like existing services, Soapbox will allow users to upload digital videos onto the service regardless of format, and categorise them to create a searchable database of moving images. This is slightly different from the YouTube service in that Soapbox users can watch clips and search for new ones in the same browser window.

The beta of Soapbox on MSN Video (previously codenamed "Warhol") is available on an invitation-only basis in the US. Access to the beta will expand over time by enabling existing beta testers to invite some friends onto the service which is supported by Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or later, running on Windows XP, and Firefox 1.0.5 or later versions running on Windows XP or Macintosh OS X.

Microsoft is relatively late in delving into the explosively successful online video space, but it already has a large online community, which may work out to be a strong advantage. The millions who use MSN, the Hotmail email service, Live Spaces blog community, and Microsoft's Yahoo!-compatible instant messenger service may be a natural market to tap for Soapbox newbies.

At this early beta stage, it's yet to be seen how Microsoft plans to create revenue from its new Soapbox service.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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