Although millions have downloaded the leaked copy,, and you can , like I did.
Firstly, a warning for dial-up users: this program is over 8MB – an astonishing increase of 5.5MB over the last release. If you’re unfortunate enough to be on narrow-band, you will need a lot of patience before getting this program.
Once you have it, you need to run the installer, which uses the standard Windows Installer system. And once it has initialised, you’ll see a welcome dialog, which cheekliy ‘recommends’ that you make msn.com your browser home page. It’s disabled by default, but still very cheeky.
Then there’s the EULA, which makes the GPL look like a personal ad – it’s huge. And what’s more, it changes languages twice – starting in English, then going into French, and then back into English again. I did skim-read the document but no-one in their right mind is going to read the whole thing. Which is worrying – who knows what MS may have slipped into it?
During the install, MSN Messenger registers itself to run on startup, without asking you. Yes, you can disable it in the program but that’s not the point – I don’t necessarily want it running on startup.
Message logging is now built in, which is handy since I don’t use MSN Messenger Plus anymore (you probably know why already but if you don’t here’s a hint), and you can have avatars like in AIM. It even comes with some built-in ones, which bare an uncanny resemblance to the user pictures in Windows XP. Funny that.
While the contact list looks largely the same as before (including that annoying advertising bar), the instant messaging windows have changed considerably, and now look a lot better. Not only that, but you can change the background, and via some clever alpha transparency, the image shows up behind all elements. It makes for a cool effect.
When you close the window, you’re asked if you want to save the conversation via the logging feature. Interesting how it tells you to advise the person you are logging the conversation.
How about resource usage? This is always a big problem for me, seeing as I have a somewhat less powerful computer. And my verdict: poor. The program seems to take up a lot more memory and was putting considerable strain on the system, to the point at which XP had to enlarge the swap file. And that hasn’t happened in a long time. The alpha-transparency, nice as it is, probably doesn’t help matters.
All in all? There’s been some genuine improvements, but some things really bug me about this release. Trillian will still be my IM client of choice for the forseeable future. It seems that Chris came to a similar conclusion. Of course, this is only a preview release, so it might be a little more efficient in future once the extra debugging code has been removed. I hope.