Most of the companies have one. A list of the products that have been made and are ready for the masses to test but aren’t quite ready for prime time. Yahoo has Yahoo Next. Google has Google Labs. Windows Live has the creatively named “Windows Live Betas” along with the also original “Microsoft Live Labs.”
The first impression you get when you load up Google Labs is that this is a hit and miss list of services that Googlers have made in their spare time. There’s the rather cool Google Trends and then the rather perplexing Second Life rip-off Lively. Ok, Google labs has been around for a long time and it’s a great place to go and see the many possible routes for Google to head down in the future.
Next.Yahoo.net, yes Yahoo.net, is probably the most exciting incubator page from any of the big three aging web companies. Yahoo Next, once upon a time, resembled Google Labs. Then, a while back, they relaunched as a spotlight for the Yahoo Brickhouse team’s projects.
The blog is updated regularly with nice explanations about some of the new products and it has a very creative and new vibe to it. The stars here are probably Yahoo Live and Yahoo Pipes. Live is a UStream-esque service for live streaming. Pipes is an innovative take on RSS and apis that allows programmers and non-programmers alike to create Mash-Ups.
An interesting note on Yahoo Next is that that there is a large number of FaceBook apps. These are worth a look and and feel like interesting social experiments. For example: “Vibes: This Facebook app is a social experiment tracking the flow of kindness across the world. Try it!.”
The biggest private beta here has to be Fire Eagle. It’s a location based social network of sorts. My only worry is that it’s in private beta while similar services like Loopt are publicly running and attracting an audience. The invite list doesn’t seem to be moving very fast either; I signed up a while ago and have heard nothing of it.
Now, Microsoft is an interesting story. First, they have the Windows Live betas. There are only four and they seem to be anchored by a calendar beta and a Yahoo Answers competitor.
Move on to Microsoft Live Labs; and, things start to look more interesting. This is a set of projects, the most famous of which is probably Photosynth, that seem to be all a par of a well congealed product line. The only project that seems to be consumer focused in Microsoft Live Labs Listas.
Listas is a very powerful productivity tool that seems to be similar to the great Stikkit.com. Also, it could easily be used as a kind of web-based Omni Outliner.