Any family, every family


Problem 2: To kids, family features are weapons

In a white paper, we illustrate the importance of family and child services to Microsoft, and then the limitations different architectures would impose on different families in that hypothetical service.

For kids to establish real relationships with us, there has to be something in it for them. Right now, there isn’t.

Family is a social structure for parenting kids, for establishing inheritance, and for aiding the elderly, among other reasons. So far, Microsoft has focused its family efforts on kids, and we’ve focused on safety and control of kids. We’ve designed our tools and services to work best when kids have parents who live together, and who don’t have “too many” siblings.

Kids are incredibly important to Microsoft. They are our future customers, enthusiasts, and employees. We invest money and talent in ground-breaking crime-fighting tools, and to inspire and enable kids to innovate in science, technology, and math. Kids will build the future.

It’s important to us to keep kids safe. Microsoft has legal obligations and positions that govern the policies we’ve established for children having accounts with us. Parents must accept the (various) Terms of Use on behalf of their children, and agree to them having accounts. We’ve made it possible for parents to apply rules to their child’s accounts, so that children don’t see mature-rated games and adult Internet sites. We built controls so that children can’t add friends online or participate in online chat without parental approval. We made it possible for parents to make their child’s world very safe–and thereby, at least to the kid, we’ve sucked every ounce of joy from it.

So far, we’ve only built reasons for kids to avoid Microsoft products, because they will be parentally-controlled in our ecosystem more than in any other. The most common way for kids to use our products is by using an adult or shared account, whether they lied about their birthdate or are using a parent’s account.

In the future, we must build for kids. We must give kids reasons they want Microsoft products, and then they will encourage their families to buy Microsoft devices, services, content, and more. When we build for kids’ safety, we must keep their joy in mind, too.

Opportunity: Make it easier

When Microsoft knows who a customer’s closest people are, intelligent assumptions can be made about the profiles they’d like added to a shared device, the software they’d like to install, and the contacts they’d like to communicate with.

Solution: …

Written with Bryce Johnson, designer, and socialized internally at Microsoft.