Is Windows Live Messenger Your Friend?

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Sean Carver is a rock star. No, seriously – he’s one of the guys at Microsoft who has always listened to my feedback. Not sure he’s always able to push my suggestions through the pipeline, but he really does listen (and I wish I could say that about more people I kenw). Microsoft just launched v8 of their Messenger product. It’s good, and I’d recommend it over previous versions of Microsoft’s IM client, but there are a few things that are holding it back from being great:

  1. Yay: Cleaner, more efficient UI. I’m still not going to switch from Trillian 2.0, but I’m not immediately turned off by Windows Live Messenger’s interface. It’s still a bit laden with oversights, but not so many that it’s painful to use.
  2. Boo: Advertisement overkill. Seriously, can’t I just pay to remove all ads from all Windows Live / MSN services? That, to me, would be worth $100 a year. Enough with the upsells, man – some of us just want to connect with friends and co-workers.
  3. Yay: Yahoo! IM interoperability is coming. While this is a huge step in the right direction, I think more people would opt for the Yahoo! IM experience – which is far less annoying and contains fewer (if any) ads.
  4. Boo: I don’t use MSN Spaces, I don’t use Windows Media Player, I don’t use Windows Live Mail, I don’t use Windows Live Search – but that’s all I can get to through Windows Live Messenger (go figure).
  5. Yay: You can easily change the color of the window. Sounds like a minor feature, but try a few different colors on for size. It’s kinda nice!
  6. Boo: Tabs still aren’t customizable at ALL – it’s either all or nothing. The “love” tab shouldn’t show me a dating site, it should show me places where I can order flowers for Ponzi. That, and the Xbox tab doesn’t seem to be pulling in my Friends list? That, and the Games tab is throwing back a JavaScript error. That, and the scroll wheel won’t let you scroll up and down through the tabs list. That, and the eBay tab doesn’t load my personal page. That, and I think Messengers Tabs are still half-baked and 90% useless.
  7. Yay: You can import favorites from your del.icio.us account. Of course, I don’t use del.icio.us because they’re still blocking Gada.be – but it shows that Microsoft is willing to think outside their own universe (if only for importing).
  8. Boo: You can’t control conversation fonts. I hate when people use 84pt Courier New to send messages to me. They think it’s wonderful – I don’t. And now, apparently, there’s no way of turning that off? Gah. Big mistake.

There, at least my impressions weren’t completely negative – but as I mentioned before, I’ll be sticking with Trillian 2.0 for the time being (going on record as stating that Trillian 3.0 is a performance dog). Windows Live Messenger 8.0 is certainly an improvement over 7.5. No instant messaging client is perfect, but if I were Microsoft, I’d start paying attention to Google. They hired the GAIM guy for Google Talk, ya know? No matter, I’m glad that Sean Carver’s team got this one out the door – but I want them to invite me into their office to make 8.5 a little more power-user friendly.