So why is MSN Israel keeping its chatrooms open?

Not just about protecting children

Financial reasons are partly behind MSN's decision to can its chat rooms, according to Israel-based publication Nana Netlife.

Explaining its decision to close its chat service MSN in the UK said it was protecting "users from unsolicited information such as spam and to help safeguard children from inappropriate communication online".

But Nana Netlife reports a statement from MSN Israel, which appears to throw up another motive.

It said: "MSN International's decision to limit the company's chat service for paying subscribers is done with accordance to the company policy of turning Internet services to paid services, as it did in the past with [Hotmail] Extra Storage and MSN 8."

According to IT journalist Ido Kenan the statement also mentions that the move would "minimise abuse of the Internet".

No one from MSN was available for comment at the time of writing.

However, in a statement the Internet operation said: "MSN Israel does not offer MSN INTL Chat services directly, but works with a local chat solution to offer a chat product to its users. This service will be remaining open, unaffected by the changes to MSN Chat."

So less hassles and fewer paedophile lurkers in MSN Israel's chatrooms, then?

Without doubt, monitoring chatrooms is a hassle and without doubt, it's hard to make money from chat, at least the way it operates on Internet portals today.

In his round of interviews with the embargo-signing news sites yesterday, MSN's European head, Geoff Sutton, admitted as much that money considerations formed part of the company's thinking in shutting chatrooms, most places.

Here's a quote from Geoff, lifted from MSNBC: "This is a decision based upon consumer experiences, child protection and our strategic investment (our italics) to build up MSN Messenger."

MSN is undoubtedly sincere in its wish to protect children online. And it has won plaudits alike from kids charities and government ministers on auto-pilot for shutting down chatrooms.

But perhaps this lossmaking service would care to quantify the money it saves by this action. And perhaps it would like to quantify the risk to children using its chatrooms. How many paedophile lurkers are there? And how many children have been harmed. ®

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