Microsoft hopes the popularity of online video-sharing services such as YouTube and Google Video will boost its own such service.

Soapbox on MSN Video, which will allow users to upload and share personal videos with others who use the service, is now available as a beta release in the US for the Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox browsers.

Like competing video-sharing services, Soapbox will allow users not only to upload videos to the web in almost any digital video format, but also to tag and categorise them so other users can find them.

The service will let users both watch videos and browse for new ones simultaneously on the same screen, something that differentiates it from YouTube, Microsoft said.