Windows LiveID hijacked by Zune Marketplace!

Be very careful when setting up your Zune on line persona… one mistake and you’re whole Windows Live ID will be worthless!

Update: Digg This

The good:
The Zune is awesome. I love the feel, the look, the UI and the whole experience using the device. The software? Even better. In fact, if you haven’t played with the new Zune software, stop reading this right now and go down load it. I’m serious, even if you don’t own a Zune the new software is so much fun to use, listen to music, watch videos, subscribe to podcasts. The software is awesome. I almost never use Windows Media player anymore, I just love using the Zune software. Just be *really* careful if you sign up for the on-line social experience. That’s where the complete usability and flexibility that you would expect from a modern system from the largest software company in the world really starts to break down.

A little context:
I have been writing software since I was in the 3rd grade. I support my wife and 4 children by writing software and helping fortune 100 companies develop leading edge solutions on the Microsoft platform. I spent 1 ½ years as a Technical Evangelist working for Microsoft directly. The point is: I’m a pretty technically savvy guy and generally a big fan of Microsoft. And yet, at this point I am so frustrated with the Zune experience that there is absolutely no way that I could recommend it to anyone. Save yourself the hassle; go get an iPod and use iTunes.

The Story:
Last week I gave my father-in law a Zune as a gift. Being the alpha-geek in the family it was left to me to set the thing up for him. No problem. I have a Zune (one of the first), I use the on-line market place. I can set him up. Because I set up Windows OneCare for my father-in law last year, he already had a Passport , er Windows Live ID (am I the only one that gets tired of re-branding perfectly good brands? But I won’t beat that dead horse here). So, he already had a Windows Live ID, which made setting him up in the Zune Marketplace even easier. All I had to do was log in with his Live ID, and create a Zune Tag, and boom – we’re off to the races!

Side note: a Zune Tag is basically your Zune Social persona. You might pick “MusicLover” or “Zune-a-licious” – just a fun name to identify yourself in the Zune online community. It’s also married to your Xbox Live Gamer tag – so if you already have one of those, your all set – and if you don’t have an Xbox Live gamer tag? Well, you will after you set up your Zune Tag – see? They’re one in the same.

And this is also where this whole thing broke down. Somehow when I was setting up my father-in laws Zune account, and logging in to Live ID, and creating the association, I missed the part where it said to enter his ZuneTag, and I entered his password by mistake! I didn’t even realize that until I was launching the Zune software, and there – instead of a fun name like “MusicLover” or “Zune-a-licious” – staring me right in the face was his password! If you are like most people, you probably use the same password for lots of thing. I didn’t ask, but I’m guessing that was the case for my father-in law… and I didn’t want to be the one to explain to him that he should probably go change all of those things now. Can you imagine?

OK, no problem, I’ll just log in and rename the Zune Tag; and if that’s not possible, then I’ll just delete the account that I just created and start over. Ahem. That is where my frustration began. There is no way to rename or delete a Zune Tag once you create it. This is beyond idiotic. I spent almost an hour looking over and digging through the Zune on-line community to try and figure out how to delete or rename my Zune Tag. I spent another 2 hours on the phone with Zune support for them to tell me the same thing.

Me: “hi I need to rename my Zune Tag please”

Zune Support: “no problem sir, just click here, and then here…”

Me: “yes I tried that before, in there you can only change your personal information, name address and stuff like that. But the Zune Tag is grayed out and un-editable”

ZS: “hmm… ok, then let’s click here and then here… ok, here and then here… hmmm.. ok, let’s try over here…” (this goes on for several other failed attempts)

ZS: “sir, please hold”… “ok sir, I’ve just confirmed with my colleagues that you can’t change the name.”

Me: “I gathered that. Can you please just change it from your end then?”

ZS: “sorry sir, I don’t have the permissions to do that.”

Me: “well, it’s my account, I just created it. So, I’m giving you the permission to do that. “

ZS: “oh, I can’t do that, the system won’t let me.”

Me: “what? Of course you can, I just created the account”… “fine. You know what? Can you just delete the Zune account, and I’ll start all over.”

ZS: “sorry sir, I can’t do that either.”

Me: “what? Of course you can! You can’t tell me that you can’t delete an account that I just created! That’s would just be ridiculous.”

ZS: “um, sir. Please hold.”…. “yes, sir? I’ve just just confirmed that I can’t do either of those, but if you wish to create a new account with Windows live, that would work…”

Me: “What? Did you just tell me to go create a new Live ID?! That’s is beyond ridiculous, and violates the whole purpose of using the Live ID in the first place!! That can’t be the answer, may I please speak with someone else?”

I go on to talk to level 2 support, and his supervisor only to be told the same thing: the only way to fix this is to create a new Live ID account and try again from there. Can I tell you how mind numbing stupid and crazy that answer is!!! If you can’t tell, my face was probably beat red through a lot of this conversation. I don’t get easily excited, but this was just completely retarded (no offense to the chromosome challenged out there). I was so angry. The level two guy actually started to explain to me how easy it would be to get a new Windows Live ID by going and getting a free email at

Do you see how crazy this is?! Microsoft wants us to organize our lives with the Windows Live ID. I manage my IM contacts, Live home page, Sky Drive, OneCare, Live bookmarks, all around Live ID, and I’ve been trying to get my father-in law to do that same. Now, with one typo on the Zune on-line and the “official solution” was to go create a new ID?!!!! It was like my Windows Live ID had been hijacked by the Zune people. They had grabbed my account and wouldn’t let go! So, now I have to have two IDs?! One for Zune, and one for everything else!! Well, there was no was that I was going to ask my father in-law to do that!

Alternative solution:

After doing some digging around the Xbox forums. Why there? Remember that the Zune Tag and Gamer Tag are married to each other? I figured that this had to be an issue before, but maybe not with the new Zune community, but certainly the Xbox people had a way to change their gamer tag. And they do. But it requires that you log in through an Xbox 360, go to Xbox Live, and change it from there. Oh yeah, and it will cost you 800 MS points, but you’ll have to buy them in 1,000 MS point increments at a cost of $12.50.. oh, and after you add your credit card to but your father-in law 1,000 MS points that he’ll never use, and use 800 to change his name to what it should have been in the first place… there is no way (that I could find) to remove your credit card form the account! So now, my father in law has my credit card tied to his XBox account that he will never use just so that he could have a non-passwordish Zune tag name, just so that he can subscribe to podcasts that are free through the Zune Market place!!

The Fix:

Microsoft could and should do several things to fix this:

  1. Make Zune tags editable from the Zune Social website. Or at least give people the ability to cancel their Zune account and start over.
  2. Live ID: I should be able to view all websites that I’ve used my Windows Live ID at and then have the ability to kill that Windows Live ID association from one central place.
  3. Allow one-time use credit cards on Xbox market place accounts.

Lessons learned? Do not marry your life to Windows Live ID… until Microsoft prevents people (even themselves) that implement Windows Live ID from hijacking it. Oh, and go get an iPod.

Update (related): The other day I had to change a twitter account to a new name. I wasn’t sure how well it would work, and was prepared to just create a new account; especially since I had already linked to other people. I had also turned on a custom feature that they call “auto-friending” (auto-friending requires a support ticket to their help desk to enable) and now my name and account URL were going to change. Was it a challenge? Did I have to call them, pay money and go through some other piece of proprietary hardware to do it? No! It was a snap and took all of two seconds to accomplish. All of my links and account settings continued to work without issue. Come on Microsoft, it shouldn’t be that hard!

A special note to my blue-badge Microsoft friends: I actually sent a preview copy of this blog post to a friend in DPE about a week ago; I was hoping that there would be a better fix by now. I’m still waiting. 😛

About Caleb Jenkins

Caleb Jenkins is an international speaker, author and 6 time Microsoft MVP award recipient, he currently works for Solera as a Director of Software Development. An entertaining and informative speaker who approaches software from a fresh perspective that spans UX, agile practices and technologies for enterprise customers from across the globe. Leading UX product design teams, coaching multi-team agile transformations and architecting and mentoring at some of the largest companies in the world, As a long time community leader and former Microsoft Developer Evangelist, Caleb is well known for his engaging speaking style, depth of knowledge and creative energy. Founder and Principal Mentor of Proaction Mentors, former UX Manager and Agile Coach, Senior Architect for Six Flags Corporation, Product Architect on a Cloud Marketing Platform, Caleb has made a career out of empowering others while building products and teams that delight customers and solve business needs. You can follow him on twitter (@calebjenkins) or his blog, and if you're still reading this, then you could also subscribe to his blog RSS feed or sign up to receive updates by email