Ripping a page from the Google playbook, Microsoft have stepped up to compete with Google Apps for Your Domain by offering you a free Office Live Basics website and communications portal.

Book Beta

A year ago I wrote about Office Live Essentials and I found the service to be slow and proprietary — you had to be on Windows and you had to use Internet Explorer.

Those two petty requirements are still locked in — so it is hard now for me as MacBook Pro Boy Toy
to get really excited about this new free offering.
However, most of the world still runs on Windows and IE, so you might
be interested in taking MSFT up on the details of their free offer:

Book Beta

I have basically been waiting for BookBeta.com
to get out of the Office Live beta testing phase and go paid at a
subscription price of $20.00 a month so I could cancel the service.
I do not own that domain name — Microsoft does — but now that there’s
a free version of the service, I might as well try to stay awhile and
see how things work out.

Here’s why Microsoft’s offer, while free, is still closed and hateful;
behold the error message below when I load my BookBeta.com homepage using Firefox 2.01 — my browser of choice:

Book Beta

That nasty message makes it snarky and obvious — “requires a
connection to the internet”… umm “Duh!” — that Microsoft’s Office
Live Basics is for their benefit and not yours.
Microsoft will give you free space and service, but you have to use
their technology and their proprietary browser or you and your visitors
get punished with punitive messages like that stuck on your website to
insult and ugly up the user experience.

Google Apps for Your Domain doesn’t place that sort of hate message on
the domains they host if you aren’t using their preferred technology of
choice.
I just contacted Microsoft Support to have them move my BookBeta.com
account from Paid Essentials to Free Basic. We’ll see if they make that
change and how long it takes them to make that move. Watch this space
for regular updates.

Office Live is worth it for free, but not worth paying to use.

Do
you have any free web services you use? If yes, which services do you
like and which services do not work as well as you’d hope?
If Microsoft places advertising on your free site — would that bother
you — or would you expect that to be part of the “free” setup you’re
exploiting in the Office Live Basics offer?

21 Comments

  1. How very cheeky of them! (to say the least).
    Presumably they will update that in time so only the users of the new Vista operating system can use it!
    The free spaces I use at present are my blogging ones – WordPress and the old blogger account.
    Both of those are advert free.

  2. Hi Nicola!
    It is interesting this “free” service arrives in tandem with the release of Vista! Are you upgrading to Vista? I am not.
    I’m sure there will soon be “extra special features” that will not be available for use unless you’re running a Vista box. Grr!
    WordPress.com is not necessarily advert free. There may be Adsense “testing” ads that appear on your site. Have you noticed any of those Ads? Have any of your readers noticed them?

  3. Here’s the reply from Microsoft concerning my request to cancel my “Live Essentials” and downgrade to the free “Live Basic” version [emphasis added]:

    Based on the information I received, you want to cancel your account if there would be no way to downgrade it to the free subscription, which is the Microsoft Office Live Basics. I understand why this would be cause for concern.
    David, let us clarify things out. According in our database, you have a Microsoft Office Live Essentials Beta account. Since it is still in Beta version, it is free. In this version, we currently don’t have yet the downgrade path to Microsoft Office Live Basics.
    However, we are in the process of transferring all our Beta accounts to the new version of Microsoft Office Live. Your Microsoft Office Live Essentials account will be automatically upgraded to Microsoft Office Live Premium account. On this new version, you will now have the option to downgrade your subscription to Microsoft Office Live Basics account which is free. You have to downgrade your account within the 30 day grace period. If you do not downgrade your subscription, that is the only time you will be charged for the monthly service fee.
    If you want to push through with the cancellation, kindly confirm to us so that we may able to facilitate your request.

    Now isn’t that some keen bookkeeping! I’m currently at the $20.00 per month “Essentials” level and when the beta ends, Microsoft will move me right up to the “Premium” level for $40.00 a month – no questions asked and no end user intervention necessary!
    No timeframe or notification is provided for this move “up” to paying more than you’d expect, and MSFT already have my credit card info on file because you couldn’t get into the initial beta a year ago without providing a credit card for the “free” beta test period.
    Now what should I do?

  4. Not touching Vista with a barge pole.
    Even the *Compatability Wizzard* wont run on my machine with out considerable updates – let alone the main thing.
    I havent noticed any ads at all on my wordpress blog – and none have been reported to me.
    In the UK – by law you have to inform the customer if you are making any changes to a direct debit or standing order – ie they wouldnt be able to do that with out 28 days notice.
    I would write and request that they give you 5 working days of the change over so that you have time to implement the change to the free subscription and make sure nothing is taken off of your credit card without your permission.
    And of course flag and keep a copy of that enail.

  5. I ran that wizard on my year-old divine ThinkPad T43p, Nicola and one of the compatibility warnings was that I’d lost my Touchpad and mouse buttons. Doh! I’ll pass, I say!
    😀
    Good advice. They say there’s a 30 day grace period to get off the paid service — I guess I’ll have to start checking my BookBeta.com email again for updates!

  6. Best quote I have read about Vista so far is from “is Vista ready for you? ” from the Register.
    “Remember, we call it an “operating system”, not an “operated system”, for a reason: it’s the OS’s duty to run your machine, not your machine’s duty to run the OS – but just try making that point to a Microserf.”

  7. Hi Chris!
    Thanks for all the lowdown detail on your hosting setup.
    Beware of $1.99 registrars like Go Daddy. There are horror stories that come with those “too good to be true deals.” I know people who want to leave Go Daddy and take their domain name with them only to be hit with a $199.00 fee to “unlock” the domain from Go Daddy’s control.
    One advantage to using Office Live is that it can give you a different IP address to link to and to celebrate your work instead of all your sides being bundled under a single IP.
    You cannot, however, edit your Zone File with the current setup I have with MSFT. They control the all and the everything.

  8. Hi David,
    I was trying to find information about the $199.00 fee, but only find articles about people getting hit with that fee after they sent out unsolicited emails that generated spam complaints. I also saw the news about the site that was yanked after they put up a list of MySpace passwords.
    What were the facts behind the $199.00 transfer fee?
    (Disclosure: The parent company of my reseller site is GD).

  9. Yes, those are some examples — sites accused of Spam, legitimately or not — get their domains shut down by their Go Daddy registrar seemingly in order for Go Daddy to make ransom money on the back end for the return of the domain.
    This thread should sober you up away from Go Daddy as a domain registrar:
    http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=347385
    And this:
    http://digg.com/tech_news/GoDaddy_Swipes_a_Domain_
    And this:
    http://8008135.org/2006/01/16/blacklist-blackmail-even-godaddy

  10. Hi David,
    I’m a little concerned, but I’m not that worried at this point because the stories seems to related to spamming, except for the domain name that might have been registered someplace, but didn’t show up as being registered when placed in the cart.
    The sitepoint comments go back to the accused spammer who sent out unsolicited link exchange emails.
    The Digg.com story has a flag warning of innaccuracies. There are comments that the domain name was bought by someone else, not GoDaddy.
    I had something similar happen with me when I tried to buy a domain name through Yahoo. It came up available when I plugged the name into the search form, but when the transaction was to be completed, the domain was unavailable. (I did a whois search and it was already registered to someone else).
    And the 8008135.org story deals with posting to Yahoo groups which could be considered spam by some people since some people get the contents of the boards emailed to them. I get emails from a real estate agent that are sent via a Yahoo board. I consider it to be spam, but I’m sure she considers it doing business. (I just let the filter snag them before I see them).

  11. I haven’t had a problem, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
    I also didn’t have a problem when I bailed from Yahoo, unlike this guy who claims he had problems transferring from Yahoo.
    http://w2.syronex.com/jmr/blog/2005/10/yahoo_domain_registration
    I don’t like that spam black lists are being used. If someone fakes a header, does that get a site listed as being a spam site?
    As far as seclist and all of the phished passwords being listed: Would it be different if the seclist had included only SSNs? Or, if it was just WordPress passwords? Or credit card numbers? Bank account numbers? Lists of AIDS patients? Medical records? Addresses of federal witness protection participants?
    Is there a cheap alternative that doesn’t require Microsoft to control your domain name? Also, Google’s domains are run through GD (and enom). :mrgreen:

  12. Chris!
    I used to be with Yahoo!, too, but they never were the registrar of my domain.
    The key to web happiness and security, I have learned, is to have a reputable and honorable Registrar and to cleave the baby: Registrar with one company and host with another. Then you cannot be held hostage. I was sort of held hostage when I was hosting with NetSol if you remember, but I made a clean getaway… eventually.
    I have all my 100 domains with: Network Solutions and I have been with them since I started a website way back when.
    They are expensive. I feel, and others claim, they’re worth that extra money to avoid any hassles.
    I control and own and point all my domains from NetSol myself — except for BookBeta.com — but if you wanted into that Beta you had to let MSFT manage your new domain. Ick.
    Network Solutions have never let me down as a registrar. I’m a Gold VIP. I get discounts on renewals and other services so they’re tolerable when it comes to forking over the dough.