MSN today announced the U.S. beta release of Soapbox on MSN Video, a user-uploaded video service.
YouTube leads the user-generated video market, with greater market share than MySpace, Google, and Yahoo as of August 16, according to Hitwise market research.
And the Microsoft product will ape many of the leader's features. Users can rate, comment on, and tag each others videos. They can browse through categories, find related videos, subscribe to RSS feeds, and share their favourites.
Mentos and Diet Coke volcanoes, Lonelygirl15 clones, and whole lot of lip-synching are likely to ensue.
One key difference between YouTube and Soapbox, general manager of entertainment and video services for MSN Rob Bennett told internetnews.com is a "hidden gem" feature called "always be watching." It allows a user to navigate the site without stopping the currently playing video.
Although user-generated content sites like YouTube have exploded in popularity as broadband penetration deepens, whether that popularity could turn a profit remains in doubt.
Despite YouTube's partnerships with NBC and Warner Music Group, it's advertising-supported video portal is still an unproven business model.
But Microsoft isn't as interested in turning immediate profit with Soapbox as it is attracting new users to its greater network.
"The business goal for Soapbox is to drive deeper consumer loyalty to the network, and provide new innovative opportunities for our advertising partners," a Microsoft spokesperson told internetnews.com.
And indeed, Soapbox will be available on MSN Video and throughout Microsoft's online services, including Windows Live Spaces and Windows Live Messenger.
Original testers for the Soapbox beta will be selected on an invitation-only basis in the U.S.
Those interested can sign up at http://soapbox.msn.com. It will expand via invite-only from the beta testers.
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