Tuesday Microsoft announced a series of radical changes to Windows Live, turning it into what many critics are dubbing “a Facebook competitor.” The overarching goal is to simplify Live. Windows Live’s new dashboard is an effort to integrate all of Window Live’s services, including photo sharing, calendar, video editing. It will aggregate content from more than 50 different sites, including Wordpress, Flickr, Padora, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, and you can keep all your email accounts in one place.

"We're now at the point where we can go beyond siloed communication tools that don't work together -- and start to integrate the best of them," said Windows Live general manger Brian Hall.

On the email side, Hotmail will be faster and more effective at spam filtering, and you will be able to access all your email accounts from one place. Microsoft also expanded “SkyDrive” cloud storage from 5 to 25 gigabytes.

Just by including Live’s 460 million users, Microsoft builds a giant social network, though, more accurately, it is socializing the web portal.

Web portals still account for 25 percent of time spent online. Microsoft says that 11 percent of all Internet time is spent on Windows Live, mainly because of Hotmail and Messenger. 7 percent are spent on MySpace and Facebook.

One of the main things that differentiate Windows Live from closed gardens like Facebook et alia is that it will be open. But the integration will also keep people on Microsoft sites, which could increase ad revenue. Social networks (social media in general) have proven notoriously difficult to monetize.

The point is not that Windows Live is trying to compete as a social network, but to integrate some of the paradigm (and design) shifts that social networks, especially Facebook, have brought.

Microsoft will begin rolling out features in the next few weeks, and plans to finish implementation in 54 countries and 48 languages by January.

By Mark Alvarez