SLAM – Mobile social networking from Microsoft Research

Microsoft Research’s Community Technologies Group is working on SLAM, which is a mobile based social networking application.  Yesterday I had a  talk with  Scott Counts who is managing the SLAM project at Microsoft and quizzed him about the project’s direction and goals. According to him, they are building a social networking application that is focused on enhancing communication and coordination among users instead of being just a profile pinup. SLAM provides group messaging from mobile and web, and some interesting location based services.

From the user perspective, “Slam” means a group of people with whom you can share you exchange messages and share photos easily through your mobile phone. Slam works on group level, which means that any messages sent to a Slam gets delivered to all the members in the group. To use Slam you need to install the Slam application on your Windows Mobile based devices and need a unlimited data plan. So any messages sent from your smart phone will be over HTTP instead of using SMS. If you don’t have Windows based device, you can still communicate with your Slams through SMS, since each Slam has a different phone number to enable SMS delivery.

Slam delivers a pretty impressive feature set on the smart phones. Besides exchanging messages, users can view private and public Slams, create Slam, invite people to an existing Slam, join Slams, view Slam members, view and upload photos, manage their Slams, and view unread messages. While viewing a member profile Slam also indicates if you the user has any an intersecting Slam group with you.

One of the best features Slam team is working on is to provide location information of people in your Slam group. Once group members set their privacy level to allow appropriate Slam groups to view their location information, Slam maps the location information onto a Windows Live map on your mobile. This feature is more of a proof of concept and works only on few phone including Audiovox 5600, I-Mate Sp3 and i-Mate SP5 for some of the Seattle users of Cingular/AT&T and T-Mobile.

All the messages you send or receive or any other member information you access is also available on the Slam site, which is nice option for SMS users. Future plans for the service include enhancing the coverage area for the location based services, building the mobile application that goes beyond the Windows based devices, and implementing the service for international users(currently only for US and Canadian phone numbers).

Since Slam is currently organized as an research project, i won’t be commenting on the UI aspects of either the Slam site or the Slam application. But from the application perspective, I think Microsoft team is following the the right approach. Since the number of mobile users with data plans is on the rise, and it is better to go the HTTP route instead of designing SMS based apps. Startups that build their apps today focused on SMS users might find themselves rebuilding it in another year to take advantage of 3G user base.

In a related Microsoft news, Soapbox mobile application will be releasing sometime this week. Using the installed application, users will be able to upload and view videos hosted on Soapbox, which is still in a invite only beta testing phase.

Slam Demo Video

Slam Mobile


Soapbox Mobile




One Response to “SLAM – Mobile social networking from Microsoft Research”

  1. StartupSquad » Blog Archive » MySpace for Cingular mobiles soon Says:

    […] Everyone seems to be gearing up for the mobile space. We already have couple of deals in the video space done by Youtube and Revver. Besides this, Bebo is teaming up with O2 in UK. Google is laying out plans for its Web OS with Orange. Microsoft is working on its own deals and launching products for mobiles. Yahoo is working towards mobile ads and other services. Besides this we number of startups looking to steal customer attention on the tiny screen including 4info, and Admob. […]

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