REDMOND, Wash., July 16, 2003 — When instant messaging first became the rage in the late 1990s, it was hailed as a more personal form of communication than e-mail, primarily because it was faster. For the first time, computer users could shoot typed messages back and forth at a pace that rivaled face-to-face conversation. How much more personal could online communication get?
If you ask the developers at MSN, they’ll say,
“A lot more.”
And they’ll point to MSN Messenger 6.0 as Exhibit A. On Thursday, MSN begins broadly distributing and promoting a final version of MSN Messenger 6.0, the newest version of the world’s most popular free IM service, with 100 million unique users a month.
The release of MSN Messenger 6.0 represents the online network’s most concerted effort to date to differentiate and define itself in the booming IM market, which is growing 30 percent faster than e-mail did at its inception, according to Forrester Research. In addition to helping MSN meet consumer demand for more personalization, many of the new and enhanced features of MSN Messenger 6.0 also are intended to help the online network attain its long-term goal of providing broadband users a growing array of communications services.
MSN Messenger fans are already taking note. Hundreds of user sites have been created by enthusiasts of the IM service and its new and enhanced features, which include:
More than 60 new emoticons, including ones that come alive with animation, and the ability to make personal emoticons.
Dozens of background images and personal display pictures for the IM screen
Online games such as Tic Tac Toe and Minesweeper, which users can play at IM speed with friends
An integrated, easy-to-use Webcam service, powered by Logitech, to share live video and voice with other users.
One-click convenience when saving favorite IM conversations to a personal hard drive
Integration with more devices, including cell phone, personal digital assistants (PDAs), MSN Direct watches or Tablet PCs.
“IM is all about people expressing themselves and being themselves online,”
says Lisa Gurry, group product manager, MSN.
“MSN Messenger 6.0 helps people create a digital version of their personality — a ‘digital self’ — that they can design, build and use to express themselves online like never before.”
“This new version reflects our continued effort to provide a broad variety of services that enable customers to get more out of their online experience,”
New Emoticons, Backgrounds and Tiles Allow Users to Create `Digital Self’
Instead of a generic user interface, MSN Messenger 6.0 allows IMers to customize their onscreen backgrounds with wallpaper, which they can choose from MSN’s collection, download from their own personal photo collection or create and upload. Customers also can represent themselves to other IMers with display tiles they can choose from MSN’s collection or create. And when words just don’t say enough, there are dozens of static and animated emoticons, including a birthday cake with flickering candles, a happy face with a blinking eye and a sad face that scrunches its eyes and cries droplets of tears. If they want more options, IMers can create their own emoticons from any image they can create, find on the Web or upload.
New tiles, such as this orange flower, help users convey their personality.
More than 60 new emoticons include animated ones.
A new MSN community site provides access to an online library of new MSN Messenger 6.0 images and tools, with nearly 90 new emoticons, more than 30 backgrounds and more than 110 personal display pictures. The backgrounds and display pictures are grouped in themes, including science fiction, sports, the 1960s and 1970s, wildlife and fashion.
Games, Other Offerings Enhance Interactive Experience
For MSN Messenger users who need more competition in their lives or who need help deciding what movie to see this weekend, there’s Launch Site, a window next to the MSN Messenger 6.0 IM screen that offers interactive activities. Users can play Tic Tac Toe, Minesweeper Flags and other games with other IMers or they can spin the onscreen Decision Wheel to help answer important questions. In addition, users can share photos and other files while taking part in these Launch Site activities.
MSN Messenger 6.0 lets IMers play live games while sending IM messages.
MSN Messenger 6.0 includes an integrated Web cam feature.
Integrated Web Cam among MSN Messenger 6.0 Connection Options
MSN Messenger 6.0 expands the definition of IM in other ways. No longer must IMers type messages or be restricted to their PC. For IMers with a Webcam, MSN Messenger 6.0 includes an integrated Webcam service that lets users share live video and voice messages. MSN Messenger 6.0 users can also send and receive text messages over a cell phone or receive messages on MSN Direct watches. They also can send hand-written
messages from Tablet PCs to other MSN Messenger 6.0 users.