Despite Microsoft’s status as the Evil Empire of the software world there are a few products from them that I actually like quite a bit and one of those is their MSN Messenger IM client. I have accounts on all the major IM services, but I prefer MSN Messenger mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t allow people to just suddenly message me out of the blue which pretty much eliminates the issue of IM spam that some of the other services are plagued by. It’s also nice that you can launch Remote Assistance requests from it. Considering how often I end up helping other folks out over the Net using RA this aspect of it alone makes it worthwhile.
At work, however, the firewall blocks MSN Messenger so I’ve had to go without while sitting in my cube. Not that I have a big need to access it while working, but there have been times it would have been helpful to do so. Microsoft must have heard my prayers as they’re now beta testing a web-based version of the client called MSN Web Messenger. All you need is a connection to the Internet and a browser and you can access your MSN Messenger account and send and receive messages. Best of all it actually works with Firefox/Mozilla as well as Internet Explorer. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had blocked anything other than IE from using it. The feature set is limited to messages at the moment so it’s not any good for sending files or launching RA requests, but then that’s only to be expected. There’s also a limit on how many people can use the service at one time due to its beta status, but they’re fielding suggestions from folks who try it out.
AOL has offered a similar service for their client called AIM Express for quite awhile now and it’s similarly limited in its functionality. Turns out that Yahoo Messenger also has a web version though they don’t heavily advertise it (look for the link at the problem of their site) so this isn’t a new concept by any means, but it’s nice that MSN finally has something similar to offer.