Redmond (WA) - One of Microsoft’s so-called "Sandbox" projects, a "preview" of an online search service called "Start.com," appears to have shifted into high gear with the release of the third version of its home page.
The preview page presents a sampling of test services that require personalized selections, such as favorites and layout choices. But breaking with traditional Microsoft Web architecture - perhaps to the delight of privacy advocates - these services apparently do not transmit any personalization data to Microsoft servers, instead relying on a new client-side logic architecture based on AJAX, made popular by Google.
Fast-forward Atlas’ evolution another 24 months, and you could see what would once be categorized as Windows operating system services provided instead through MSN, complete with targeted advertising, but without direct disclosure of personal or otherwise private information with servers. Conceivably, searching your own system for MP3 or JPEG files in your future Vista virtual folder, could take place through a Start.com-like interface.
One of Start.com’s intriguing test features is blog aggregation, which at first provides instantaneous links to blog posts from various sources, including Microsoft’s own engineers. Click the down-arrow next to the "start" logo, and under "Popular Feeds," you’ll find links to popular and selected blogs, whose headlines and entries pop up instantaneously in a side window. The service enables users to enter their own chosen XML feeds into a "My Feeds" list, providing yet one more example of merging local functions with a global service provider.
As a Firefox user myself, I couldn’t help but notice how quickly Start.com automatically pulled up blog entries that mentioned Firefox. Start.com even includes this message, which is unusual from any division of Microsoft : "rest assured we haven’t abandoned our firefox [sic] users and are working on the issues continuously."