It’s all about Web Sharing

My Activity App is now up!  You can check out my first Activity API application for Messenger, which I’ve dubbed Web Sharing here:

For those who haven’t read about how long it took to get this up, be sure to read my previous entry.  Needless to say, it ended up taking a month, half a dozen e-mails and a blog entry to get the application up.  So far there’s been no official response from Microsoft and I’ve been excluded from the latest mini-contest that I would’ve presumed I would’ve been included.  So, I’m still not very pleased with the whole thing from the ridiculous amount of work and time required not building an app (it actually wasn’t that difficult) but just trying to get it up.  Not only that, but even some final statement of apology would be nice.

Anyway, my inspiration for Web Sharing came from a long lost feature of MSN Explorer.  For those who knew it existed or have forgotten, the feature was called "Browse the Web Together".   You could initiate it from MSN Messenger 5 and assuming both people had MSN Explorer 8 and a paid MSN Subscription, an applet would appear full-screen with chat on the left and a web browsing pane on the right that both users would "share".  With the introduction of MSN Messenger 6 and MSN [Explorer] 9, this functionality was removed and hasn’t been seen since.

There are some distinct differences between the two however.  Firstly, Browse the Web Together let you see the other user’s cursor as it moved over the page.  This was actually rather ridiculous as you couldn’t see them scroll down a page nor fill in forms.  I thought about attempting to reproduce this silly feature as homage to the original but decided against it.  Secondly, Browse the Web Together would follow links (with the exception of form POSTs) but Web Sharing simply opens a new browser window.  If you want the user to follow the link, you have to copy/paste it back to the conversation window.  Thirdly, unlike Browse the Web Together, Web Sharing monitors URLs in the current conversation (http:, https: and www.) so that you can continue copy/pasting links as you normally do.

Initially I thought the design breaker was not being able to follow links (it’s actually a JavaScript restriction, although from a security standpoint it makes complete sense) but after actually using Web Sharing for awhile, it’s actually become a useful tool.  Although there’s plenty of uses for Web Sharing, like for a few friends to blow off some time or for someone to "push" information to a client, it really shines with contacts who send you a lot of links (usually from blogs) like images, articles, etc. which you normally end up clicking on and at the end of the day, end up with 25 browser windows.  If you have Web Sharing initiated, you can simply open up their conversation, read the article without having to do anything, and then go back to what you were doing — no clicking, no extra windows, no browser cleanup later. 

Also, I’d like to give my friend Huuf some credit for the whole thing as he pointed out the IFRAME SECURITY attribute and gave me some pointers on how to improve the Regular Expression for detecting the URLs in the conversation.

If you have any comments or feedback on Web Sharing, feel free to let me know.

Posted on November 16, 2005, in MSN Messenger. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I\’ve just tested the Web Sharing app a few minutes ago with a friend. We were delighted. It\’s absolutely awesome. :> It saves a lot of time and hassle of opening links from conversation windows, or showing someone a certain page.Excellent job! (Y)

  2. Sorry about all the hassle! That really does suck. I sent some mail to the folks in charge of the contest to see if they can help troubleshoot the problem. I\’ll follow up with you if I hear anything. Please keep coming up with great activity and messenger ideas!

  3. hi Michaelthanks for assisting me with some problems/questions in the newsgroups :DMuch appreciated 😀

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