Today George Moore, GM of Windows Live, announced the Windows Live Contacts Gadget beta at the Microsoft TechEd 2006 conference, in Auckland New Zealand (I'm here at the conference courtesy of Microsoft NZ). Live Contacts provides programmatic access to a user's contact list, providing secure access to 400+ M active users with 12B contact records. The user is in full control over their personal data, George said.

Here's the official word:

"Learn how, with nothing more than a little JavaScript, you can allow customers to use their Windows Live Contacts (Hotmail/Windows Live Mail and Messenger contacts) directly from your Web site."

For more, check out the developer info and two working samples. MS developer Danny Thorpe notes:

"The contacts gadget is client-side JavaScript that enables end users to use their Windows Live contacts (from Windows Live Mail/Hotmail and Messenger) with third party (non-Microsoft) web sites, conveniently and securely.  The gadget works with any web server, most browsers, and doesn't require reams of license or partnership paperwork with Microsoft.  You don't have to assimilate your web server into the Microsoft collective in order to play with Windows Live contact data."

You can also show your contacts on a map using MS Virtual Earth, as per below:

Windows Live Stats

George Moore also told the conference attendees some stats of the current MS active audience - 240M Hotmail users, 230M Messenger, 72M Spaces, 8M mobile subscribers. He tells the mostly developer crowd at TechEd that "this is the audience that can be reached by Windows Live services." He goes on to say that at any one moment, 20M people are simultaneously connected on Messenger and 5.7 Billion messages are sent per day. Also there are 300M F2F video conversations on Messenger every month. George said Spaces is "now the largest blogging service on the planet" (RM: so it's bigger than blogger.com?) - it grew to 30M accounts in its first 6 months.