The site, now in beta testing, will eventually be integrated with other properties in the Windows Live Network. Ultimately, users will be able to watch videos together through the messaging program--and with Windows Live Spaces, users will be able to tie their uploaded videos to their profiles and control who can see which videos, said Rob Bennett, MSN's general manager for entertainment and video. For now, the site is open only to a select few beta testers.
Bennett said that MSN believed it could still stake a claim in the nascent video-sharing arena. "Obviously YouTube has a big audience today, but it's still Act I in this space," he said. "We think there's a lot of room to keep innovating and provide some unique features that some services don't."
Currently, the site is relatively no-frills, with the same core functionality offered by competitors like YouTube, Bolt Media and Google Video. Bennett said the goal for now was to test the site's scale and volume and get feedback from users.
Bennett also said that, in contrast to competitors like YouTube, Soapbox presents a number of out-of-the-box marketing opportunities. "One of the nice things about having Soapbox as part of the overall MSN portfolio--there are limitless ways we can monetize user-created video," he said. "We could feature them on the MSN video home page with pre-rolls, possibly--we could build a channel for MSN Autos that lets people upload videos of people customizing their cars," he said. "These are all things that we could start doing today before we even put the first ad on the Soapbox pages."