WinInfo Daily UPDATE, April 7, 2005

Microsoft Launches MSN Messenger 7.0 MSN Spaces

Microsoft has announced the immediate release of MSN Messenger 7.0 the company's latest consumer oriented instant messaging (IM) solution and MSN Spaces, its Web-based blogging service. Both products are highly integrated with each other and with various other MSN services, including MSN Hotmail, MSN Music, and MSN Search.

"People all over the world are spending more of their time communicating online and MSN is providing the services they use," Blake Irving, corporate vice president for the MSN Communication Services and Member Platform group, said. "We continue to invest in services that create meaningful, personal, and emotional connections for our customers, letting them express themselves in ways that suit them best."

"With more than 155 million active users exchanging 2.5 billion instant messages each day, MSN Messenger is one of the most often used Internet services ever created," Microsoft notes. MSN Messenger 7.0 expands on the capabilities of earlier versions by adding access to the free MSN Conversation service which provides improved video conferencing capabilities with full screen video viewing. MSN Messenger 7.0 also includes free high quality PC-to-PC, peer-to-peer audio chatting integration with cell phone text messaging, numerous personalization improvements, photo sharing functionality, and more.

Microsoft is also working to reduce IM-based electronic attacks, such as spim spam, sent over IM channels, although the company is understandably vague about the technologies it's implementing behind the scenes." We've responded to the increase in spim type attacks by taking steps on the back end," Larry Grothaus, the lead product manager for MSN Marketing told me during a prerelease briefing. "Safety and security are big concerns and we also give users the ability to set various security settings from directly within Messenger. Messenger 7.0 will also optionally integrate with your antivirus solution and scan IM based file transfers, Grothaus said.

One interesting aspect of MSN Messenger 7.0 is that it will support optional advertising that lets companies (such as early adopters Adidas, Sprite, and Volvo Cars) integrate their brands seamlessly into the product. Note the term optional. MSN Messenger 7.0 will support user downloads of theme packs that include this product branding. MSN Spaces will also be advertiser based. Microsoft announced that Volvo is the first company to advertise there.

MSN Spaces, though vaguely described as a blogging service, is really a simplified Web publishing system for consumers that's particularly adept at creating scrapbook type home pages with text lists, photo slide shows, links to favorite music, and other personal content. "MSN has tripled the storage space of each Space since the beta version to 30MB, enough for 750 photos," Microsoft says. "And for personalization the service now includes more than 50 new high quality backgrounds."

MSN Spaces has been enormously successful since its beta release in December 2004. "We had over 4.5 million people start their own Spaces during the beta," Grothaus told me. That figure probably represents a good chunk of all online blogs, which isn't too shabby for a beta version of Microsoft's first blog software. "More than 170,000 Spaces are updated daily," Microsoft notes. Spaces also offers users good security controls. You can configure a personal space to be open to all users, viewable only by those on your MSN Messenger contacts list, or viewable only by those in your Hotmail contacts list.

Both MSN Messenger 7.0 and MSN Spaces are major releases with many new features, so I'll review both products on the SuperSite for Windows. An MSN Messenger 7.0 review will be available later today and I expect to post an MSN Spaces review early next week.

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