Yahoo Messenger
By Gregg Keizer

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Yahoo Messenger will never win any design awards--this instant messenger's interface is as drab as gray paint--but the new version sure piles on the features. And, thanks to Messenger's superglue-strength integration with the Yahoo portal, you can access Yahoo content and immediately start discussions with other users right from your instant messenger.

No matter which OS you're running, you should have no trouble using Yahoo Messenger. Like AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo Messenger comes in flavors for Windows, Macintosh, Unix/Linux, Palm, and Windows CE. It also requires 1MB less RAM than AIM does: just 2.4MB.

The newest version of Messenger sports the same ultraspartan framework as earlier editions, and its lack of handholding won't sit well with newbies. Yahoo's interface lists your buddies in the main pane with icons beside each name to indicate current status, such as "I'm available" or "Busy." By default, Messenger shows you all your pals whether they're online or not, but you can change that by clicking the View menu and checking "Show only online friends."

Messenger packs more than the basics in its bag of tricks. Not only does this IM provide voice chat (which debuted more than a year ago), it also recently added video chat to its Windows version. If you install a Webcam, Yahoo automatically recognizes it and lets you broadcast a live video stream to anyone using the current version of Messenger. The feature is simple to use: Right-click a pal whose Webcam is active (you'll know because Yahoo conveniently posts the phrase "View my Webcam" beside your buddy's name), pick View Webcam from the menu, and a tiny 160x120-pixel picture pops up. Unfortunately, you can't use any other cam software at the same time; if you regularly broadcast your image to the Web with some other app, then you'll be offline as long as you're using Yahoo.

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