Windows Live Messenger – more new features expected

By Chris | In Featured, News | Posted September 4, 2008 20 comments

So now that everybody is using the leaked Wave 3 Milestone 1 build, (oops we can’t talk about that) and Microsoft employees are using the latest Milestone 2 daily builds, we thought it was time to just cut to the chase and look at what we expect to see come final release (or M3 for those keeping count). As always, this may change, so just think of it as a taster of what is to come.


Here’s what’s showing up for the first time in these pictures.

Personalisation – We’ve talked about the new Wave 3 header before, but what we haven’t really talked about is how it can be personalised. With Wave 3, the header allows for theming across Windows Live using “scenes”, meaning that the UI you see in Messenger is also the UI you see on the web. As the image on the right shows, users can select their own background image – maybe its time for some LiveSide themed screenshots? :)This was discussed in one of our first ever interviews with Phil Holden over 2 years ago, so its great to see this finally come to fruition. 

Simplified header: As well as having the new Wave 3 UI, the header at the top of the contact list has also had a redesign, removing a lot of the clutter. Gone are many of the buttons like Windows Live Call, Windows Live Today, Spaces, Mobile messaging etc, leaving just a simplified Hotmail notification icon on the right hand side. This is something we’re not so surprised about, we heard a while ago that usage of these extras was very low (think <1% of all users). Here’s the Messenger v8.5 header for comparison.

old messenger header

Improved Personal Status Message (PSM) – The PSM was first introduced in Messenger v7 along with the music PSM, showing your contacts what you are listening to. Since then not much has changed, despite some intrepid investigators noticing that there are Office and Games icons contained within Messenger for use in this area. With Wave 3 this upgraded PSM allows users to show both their regular status and music updates at the same time.

The new buddy icons  – There’s two parts to this. The most obvious point is the removal of the messenger buddy icon to be replaced with a coloured tile. Then there’s also the new new online presence indicator, which both colours the tiles and surrounds display pictures in the form of a glow. See the Favorites at the top of the contact list for an example of this. Presumably green is available, orange is away and red is busy – could we also see this implemented at the top of the new Wave 3 header for online services?

wave 3 glow

The “What’s new feed”  – This is my pick  for underrated killer feature. Much like the existing Spaces homepage and the Facebook news feed, this displays notifications showing what your contacts are doing. Check out what playlists your Zune friends have made, or what files they’ve added to Skydrive for example. This should drive cross-platform integration in a big way, and turn Windows Live into a truly cohesive web platform. Can you tell I like this? See also the individual contact feed in the conversation window showing new photos are being shared online.

Tabs – No not the kind you chat through, the kind that links to other online services which Microsoft wishes to promote. These have been moved from the side of the contact list down to the bottom, just above the advertisement, saving screen real estate and making them less intrusive.

We ran through some of the other new features already in our first post about Messenger Wave 3, here’s a quick summary: 

  • Favourite Contacts – these are the contacts you are most interested in. Positioning this special group of contacts at the top gives you at-a-glance information about their status and activities
  • Groups – Allowing groups of contacts to communicate with each other through Group IM, this update takes the existing multi-party chat functionality to a new level. Of course it also opens up others scenarios such as sharing files and photos.
  • PhotoShare application – This is a new application that allows users to transfer photos to their contacts for viewing. The main part of the conversation window shows a large preview for one of the photos, with the right hand side column showing smaller previews for the upcoming photos

Note as we mentioned right at the start of this build, the chatter online is that current internal builds are at M2. Logically if these show the M3 and expected final UI, they must then be mockups. This means there may be some tweaks before the final release, but all being well it should look very similar.

Posted September 4th, 2008 at 10:45 pm
  • tophtucker

    I agree, the News Feed thingy is great. But let me just say, on a related note, that where Microsoft competes with Facebook, Facebook is almost always going to win for me. It’s just a matter of where my friends are. So I’m especially interested in seeing as much MS/FB cooperation as possible. FB already lets you import feeds from certain third party services into your news feed. Given that they already have something of a relationship with MS, I’d like to see some Windows Live services thrown in there.

    As for scenes–cool, cool. But I’m loving the daily backgrounds. Some great photography. An option to just use today’s background would be great.

  • AndyD

    Any update on the compatibility with Gtalk in addition to Yahoo!?

    I remember reading that they were working on that.(along with AIM)

    The question is this, for me: if they get Gtalk working, does that include the ability to view AIM buddies since you can through Gtalk?

  • Chris

    @AndyD: Haven’t heard anything on the Gtalk integration.

    @tophtucker: Totally agree on the FB vs WL points. It all relies on critical mass, which is why IM services are usually pretty strong in certain markets and weak in others.

    Daily images would be nice :)

  • G-Z

    the interface could and should be much cleaner than it is. I prefere the interface of the Yahoo Messenger. It also fits better with Vista. Well, at least I hope it uses WPF. The transparent border of Vista doesn’t really fit well with the interface. And they should use something like bubbles (or a different concept) to improve the design of the actual chat text (who said what).

    The new features are quite cool though. They should remove Tabs but the positioning is an improvement.

  • jamiet

    Zune information in the What’ new feed. That is killer…its only…ooo 11 months since I asked for something similar (!550F681DAD532637!1912.entry)

    There is LOADS more stuff that could go into that newsfeed. “So-and-so has just uploaded a video to Soapbox” for example.

  • DavidK

    Now this looks better… certainly better than the Windows Live Mail is looking (even with the calendar integration). It’s pleasing to see development though. =)

  • Alber1690

    Wait…so the little buddies in the taskbar are leaving us?

  • AndyD

    I just thought of something: there used to be Windows Live Alerts for Xbox Live related items. eg. people signing in, new messages, et cetera.

    I wonder if those will be back?

  • Alasdair

    Just a few observations:

    1) The left main windows search bar says “search contacts or the web” and the right says “Find a contact and more”.
    2) The right has a star next to Favourites and the left doesn’t.
    3) Also, one says the person is ‘available’ and one says ‘online’

    Strange. Different builds? Mock ups?

  • quikboy

    Interesting. It does look improved, on the UI front. I’m going to miss the buddy icons, but the new ones are much better and to the point.

    I’m not digging the chat window though. I wish Microsoft could do a better job of visually separating the text in the conversation. Maybe colored speech balloons, or color backgrounds behind the text could do a better job. They’re better be a way of closing the darn display pics in the chat too. NO tabs? Argh. And the text input toolbar is still very crappy, with no way to customize what’s on it.

    “What’s New” is a dumb name. “News Feed” or “Friend’s Updates” would be better, and I hope we can see more than just a itzy bit. Judging by the screenshots, it’s a nice UI change, but I want more new features besides Groups and PhotoShare (stuff I’ll never use)

    How about iChat-like video effects? Or combining SharedView? A bazillion of things to add.

  • calum-r-

    Another thing to add to Alasdair’s list of differences between the two screenshots of the main window:

    The favourite contacts have their display picture showing in the first one, yet in the second one they just have their buddy icon showing… I remember you saying the favourite contacts would have their display picture showing so I hope that in the second screenshot it is just an option they have turned off, because I really love the idea of the display picture showing for our favourite contacts but not the other contacts.

    Also “search contacts or the web” sounds MUCH better than “find a contact or more”.

    I really do LOVE this user interface & the favourite contacts feature & coloured borders around the display pictures are FANTASTIC ideas! I really hope they incorporate the coloured display picture borders in their other software & web services!

  • ProSieben


    i dissagreed abou the new buddy icons. Please let the old status symbols for busy etc… I think that would be make some people disorientate

  • Lassan

    I really think the display pictures in the conversation window should remain on the right because we read from the left. So the first thing you look at should be the text and not the DP. I used M1 and found them too disruptive/distracting and had them hidden most of the time.
    Gets really annoying with webcam sessions as well, at least to me.

  • mrx9898

    Hmmm… I have a couple of things that I’m not too fussed about with this build. First is that I don’t like these new buddy icons, for me, the little messenger buddy works a lot better, because it’s kind of a brand thing. Second is that the borders around the display picture looks kind of weird against whatever colour you choose for the UI. Third is that I HATE that the webcam icon is on the very left of the conversation, this just seems to be a waste of space, when they could put it above the display picture or below. And lastly, I just don’t feel that it looks to professional, and at the moment, the UI sucks balls. -mrx9898

  • Seika

    The tile now looks like Office Communicator.

    I like the small links in header, especially Hotmail’s. That icon is my new mail notification, and when a mail arrived, I can just click on it to open Live Mail or Hotmail. Second is the spaces shortcut, but the others do seem unused.

  • calum-r-

    I really CANNOT wait for this! I hope they release the beta this week!

  • calum-r-

    I’ve also just noticed something: I love how they’ve changed the “Online” text to say “Available” instead. That makes much more sense because before, the category was called “Online” even when people were “Busy” or “Away”, so “Available” & “Unavailable” or “Available” & “Offline” make much more sense to me!

    It’s little things like that that please me sometimes! :) lol.

  • Alasdair

    I agree. It’s the little things that make a difference. Although, one of the screens status still says “online”.

    I must admit that I like new status tiles, but mrx9898 has a point with the “brand thing”.

    However! If status is going to be applied throughout Windows Live then it’s not exclusive to WLM and class buddy icons make less sense (as other users may just be “contacts” instead of buddies, like they are in communicator).

    The display pictures on the left hand side are starting to drive me insane. Reading Left to right is normal for most users and having a big empty gap isn’t good on the eyes.

    Oh, and I don’t ever remember it being suggested in the beta *cough” , so why guys!! Work on requests first!

  • Davideh

    Hmm, would it be ok if I posted the WLM 9 W3 msi? (beta testa)

    _backs away

    Or would that go against a ToS?

  • Davideh

    Just some images :D