Microsoft starts official Web Messenger trial

Microsoft has launched a test version of a Web-based MSN Messenger client that allows users to connect to the instant messaging (IM) service without installing a client application.

The beta version comes a week after Microsoft accidentally gave a sneak preview of the Web-based IM client. The company removed the pages hosting the Web Messenger on an MSN test Web site after the service attracted attention from MSN Messenger enthusiasts and the media.

MSN Web Messenger is officially back as of late Wednesday. The Web-client test is aimed at users in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Japan. Microsoft plans to roll out the service more broadly later this year, a company spokeswoman said.

A Web-based client can be useful when installing the full client is not possible. This could be on a public computer in a library, at school or at a conference or when using a locked-down corporate system, for example.

Web-based instant messaging is not new. America Online (AOL) has long offered AIM Express, a Web client for its AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). Yahoo also has a Web client for its Yahoo Messenger. Additionally, several third-party Web sites offer Web-based access to various instant messaging services, including MSN Messenger.

The beta version of MSN Web Messenger requires Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape 7.0, Mozilla 1.6 or newer versions of any of these Web browsers. Users also must disable pop-up blocking and have a Microsoft Passport account, according to the test Web site.

MSN Web Messenger supports basic text messaging only. The service does not support Web cams, audio conversations or online gaming, for example.

The English version of MSN Web Messenger is at: http://webmessenger.msn.com

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