MSN Toolbar released – yes another toolbar. Is this one different?

After a couple of months of beta testing, the MSN Toolbar is ready for release.  We first told you about it in March, and while yes, it’s another toolbar, the new MSN Toolbar is different in a couple of significant ways.  First, it’s powered by Silverlight, and as it is written in XAML, there are plans to do some cool stuff with it coming up, according to MSN Director Stefan Weitz, who I had a chance to talk to a bit about the new toolbar.

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Later this year an SDK will be released and 3rd party developers will be able to write to the toolbar.  Weite said that plans have not been finalized, a check-in process, similar to how apps are checked into the Windows Live Gallery, may be used.  Extending the toolbar may give it more of a reason to become a keeper in what is already a crowded browser toolbar market.

The toolbar also includes a “breaking news” feature, which alerts readers to important news stories without having to check MSNBC etc.

One complaint we heard about the MSN Toolbar available in beta was a lack of customization, users were stuck with basic black.  That has changed with color customizations:

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The new toolbar is not without some not-so-subtle attempts to feature Live Search.  Whenever a search page is encountered (either this MSN page, or a search page from a competitor), the Toolbar “flips” to reveal a Live Search bar and all of the “scope” tabs:

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All in all, however, it IS just another toolbar, albeit a Silverlight one, in an already crowded market.  I wonder if this guy can add it to his collection:

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You can download and try the new MSN Toolbar now at http://toolbar.msn.com/ (if it’s not available in your area now, it will be soon Update note: the toolbar is rolling out in the US today, and will be available in more markets “this summer”)