Yahoo opens Launchcast to IM barrage

Internet titan Yahoo Inc. has updated its low-profile but increasingly popular Launchcast radio service, allowing users to send instant messages (IMs) to other users interested in the same album, artist or song.

Launchcast is a free radio service that allows users to enter their musical preferences and create their own "station" that streams music according to the users' tastes.

With the new offering, a "fan" list now appears next to music entries and by clicking on a "smiley" icon, users can send an IM to a fan via Yahoo Messenger. They can also click "listen" to tune into the fan's station or hit an "info" button to find out more about the station.

And while the new offering is aimed at strengthening Yahoo's radio community, it also means that users with Launchcast stations and Yahoo Messenger accounts can now be sent IMs by other users.

"Fans" are users who are randomly selected and prioritized by recent activity and ratings, Yahoo said in an e-mail sent to Launchcast users Wednesday.

Anyone who rates a song or artist with a score of "90" of higher becomes a "fan" of that artist or song and can be sent IMs by other users, Yahoo said in an updated privacy policy concerning the new service.

If users do not wish to receive IMs, they must tweak their Yahoo Messenger privacy settings, Yahoo said, selecting "ignore anyone who is not on my Friend List" and "do not allow users to see me online and contact me."

While the new offering is meant to bolster communication among users, it is unclear how users will react when barraged with IMs from music loving strangers.

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