I just got told to download the new version of Windows Live Messenger Beta, and it’s another radical change. Too many people must have died of shock after seeing the last version, because it is right back to basics. I imagine things will still change quite a lot before it comes out of beta because it doesn’t quite feel cohesive yet. Sometimes the wee man icon is a nice modern-looking glassy thing, and sometimes it’s a grey pixellated 1990s monstrosity.
At first I didn’t like the highlighting thing that the previous version did — when everybody’s name would expand to two lines when you hovered over it. But I got used to it, and by the end I actually quite liked it, even if it sometimes made actually trying to talk to the right person a bit more difficult. I had assumed that that was the reason why the display picture no longer appeared on the contacts list — but we’re back to basics and the display pictures aren’t back. I quite liked that feature. It feels like a backward step now. One welcome advance (and it’s not really an advance because this happened in ye olde MSN Messenger anyway) is that the “personal messages” are now easier to tell apart from the contact name.
Actual features like timestamps, offline messages and shared folders are all still there, but they now feel like they’ve been lopped on to a five-year-old interface — some parts look nice and shiny, other parts look old and ragged. As I said, though, I’m sure that will change before it comes out of beta. I’m just surprised that they’ve taken away all the radical interface ideas. It must have been seriously unpopular.