Microsoft introduced Xbox Live at the tail end of the original Xbox, but it was on the Xbox 360 that it became the fleshed out, full featured online service that we know today. Now that more and more console features are internet dependent, a strong web connection, as well as buying into the console's online service, is basically a requirement.
Paying for an Xbox Live Gold account has always been necessary to take your Xbox games online. That was a major edge for the PS3, which gave away this functionality, but now Sony has taken the same approach and put the PS4's multiplayer behind a paywall. It does not, however, make you buy in to access Netflix and other streaming services.
The Xbox One still requires you to meet the $80 price tag before you can have access to video services, which is getting harder to justify since it's the pricier of the two consoles. And now that the Xbox One has more online features, there's even more that's walled off until you pay up. Uploading from Game DVR and cloud saves are not available without Gold.
Your account from the Xbox 360 will carry over to the Xbox One and for better or worse, Xbox Live is still basically the same service we knew from the 360. You can message friends, join groups for voice chat and jump right into a game. While you can still type up messages, Microsoft no longer lets you record and send audio messages.
At least you're paying for quality servers. Right out of the gate, connections to Live have been stable, not buckling under the pressure of the day one launch crowd. We were able to play online co-op in Dead Rising 3 as well as fight online in Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts without a snag. Mic chat through the included headset was sharp, even clearer than on the Xbox 360.
Downloading a digitally purchased game from Xbox Live is just as swift as on Sony's servers. Games can be played in mid-download, letting you dive into titles before the massive files finishes arriving.
With Game DVR the Xbox One has introduced big element to Xbox Live, but hasn't given it its proper due. Your friend feed is rather buried, hidden a couple menus deep in the system's interface. It makes uploading the file to SkyDrive and sharing it on YouTube a much more attractive option. While we appreciate that notifications and shared content it cluttering up our home screen, Microsoft should really consider finding a new place for this content to live.
There are also no free games yet available for Gold subscribers on the Xbox One. There is Killer Instincts, but it's too riddled with microtransactions to really be called free. When you download the game you get only one character and one arena. Everything else is pay to play, up to the point where you can spend enough to buy a full boxed title.
Xbox really needs to step things up in this regard. PS Plus subscribers currently get two free games, Resogun and Contrast, and they're both solid titles. Gold subscribers on the 360 currently have similair benefits, so there's really no reason why Microsoft shouldn't have come out of the gate with something to reward its paying customers.