Just when you were wondering if Microsoft was returning to the dark side… Now you can be certain it’s true. Either that or Microsoft is secretly working for the government to drive the Chinese to distraction. (Note the partial uncertainty about which government.)

ComputerWorld says it’s true, and gives some details of the act –

Microsoft has launched a microblog-style service in China based on Windows Live Messenger, expanding the social networking functions linked to the chat software in a country where it is a hit.

Not sure why anyone uses the term micro-blogging. 140 characters is barely enough to complete a coherent thought (at least in English – now in Kanji or Chinese script, it might be possible to write a short story.)

The new service, which is called MSN Juku and is now in beta, lets users post 140-character messages to an update screen that slowly scrolls old messages to the right. The service automatically links users with people on their Live Messenger contact lists, whose updates also appear on the scrolling timeline. Posts are also stacked top-to-bottom and display only their first few words when they appear close together. Pointing the mouse at a condensed message shows its full version.

MSN China, the Microsoft joint venture that developed the new product, insisted it is not a microblog service. “Juku is a local innovation developed by MSN China … based on Windows Live Messenger networks,” a company representative said in an e-mail.

But Juku, whose name uses the Chinese characters for “gathering” and “cool”, is similar enough to a microblog site that one local media report called it a “bandit” version of Plurk, a Twitter-like service popular in Asia. The Chinese term for “bandit” is slang for a product similar to that of an established brand and is most often used to describe knock-off mobile phones.

The new MSN service also lets users play simple games and earn prizes such as new face icons to post in messages. Users can upload a profile picture, visit the pages of other users and add them as friends.

Can this be coming to Windows Live here? My gut says yes, as Microsoft tries yet another way to monopolize our time, and monetize every aspect of our lives.

Instead of calling it a bandit here, it will surely become known as a rip-off of Twitter. Twitter won’t be able to do anything however, because of the integration with Live Messenger. This stuff is taking up more any more of many users screens. Moreover, since these dedicated Twits seek to never miss a staccato outburst from someone they follow, the ability to have the screen space is something all seem to want.

Hmmm, perhaps this is all a plot from the LCD manufacturers, trying to double user demand…

Many Twitter-style services have appeared in China in recent months as social networking sites grow increasingly popular. About 124 million people, or one in three of China’s Internet users, currently use social networking sites, according to the country’s domain registry agency.

Imagine that many people thinking they have something relevant to say – in so few characters.

Microblogging in particular is also growing, though Twitter and some of its Chinese rivals have been blocked by the country’s Internet authorities for months. Half of China’s social network users post microblog entries online at least once a day, according to the domain registry, though that figure likely includes messages similar to the status updates that can be sent on Facebook.

The new MSN service is likely an effort by Microsoft to win more users for its social networking products as well as its instant messaging service, said Ashley Liu, an analyst at In-Stat. Windows Live Messenger is popular in China, especially among office workers, but rival instant messaging program QQ is also widely used and has gotten a boost from value-added services built around it, Liu said.

Tencent, the owner of QQ, has had major success selling users upgrades to their accounts and virtual goods such as weapons for online games.

Users appear unable to buy virtual goods on the new MSN service. For now Microsoft may be foraying into social networking just to lower its dependence on its instant messaging program in China, Liu said.

The purchase of virtual goods is something that truly puzzles me.

It’s truly amazing what appears to interest other minds. I know that not many have my same interests, but the fact that so many have such an interest in something so foreign to me is mystifying.

I try to become aware of places where people of all types go to write about themselves, but not in short bursts, where complete thoughts are rarely shown, much less proper spelling and punctuation.  It is why I find so much of my time taken up at places like The Daily Kos and Huffington Post (though I must admit, I enjoyed Huff Po a great deal more before it tried to become the Entertainment Tonight of the crowd who reads).

I would welcome this service here if it allowed a larger space per message, and narrowcasting. If you could send at once to those on a list of friends without affecting the entire network, it could be quite nice. Also, the imposed limit could be lifted, with those trying to communicate by phone or other mobile messaging device could still keep to their own limits – those should not affect the greater audience.

The amount of noise in the world is staggering, though many would say we have to agree upon what constitutes noise.  But as far as Microsoft is concerned, it does keep them concentrated on the Windows platform.

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Mad as Hell (Howard Beale-Network)

if only small pictures could be sent – they are worth a thousand words, right?

Perhaps Devo had it right…we do seem to be devolving in so many ways. It has touched philosophical discourse as well.