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Instant Messaging Comes to Windows Live Hotmail

Instant-messaging software is so 20th-century. These days, the IM action happens on the Web, as evidenced by browser-based services like Meebo and the IM capabilities offered by Google and Yahoo.

Now Microsoft is getting in on the act: As of today, you can send and receive instant messages in your browser via your Hotmail account.

Think of this as Web-based Messenger. The key convenience, of course, is that you can IM your contacts from any computer; it doesn't matter if the client version of Messenger is installed or not. What's more, it lets you uninstall Messenger -- a bloated and annoyingly intrusive app, if you want my opinion -- from your own PCs.

Of course, you'll lose out on features like file sharing and video conferencing: Web Messenger doesn't offer extras like that. Here's what it does offer:

  • You can send IMs to your Messenger contacts from the People page (your contact list). Just click the contact's picture, and you'll see Send an instant message on the dropdown menu.
  • In Hotmail, if one of your Messenger contacts sends you e-mail, you'll see their Messenger availability indicated in green, yellow, or red right by their name. If it's green, click it and instantly start chatting.
  • If you have more than one Windows Live ID, you can sign in to Web Messenger and regular Messenger at the same time, with different IDs.
  • People can see your availability only if you've agreed to be their Messenger contacts. Nobody can start chatting with you until you decide to let them know you're available.
I don't think Web Messenger's implementation is quite there yet. It's not embedded in Hotmail the way Google Talk is in Gmail, and when you switch to your Contacts view, you lose sight of Hotmail. Here's hoping Microsoft will tweak the presentation a bit, as I think Web-based IM is totally the way to go. [via Webware]
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