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Review Yahoo! has revamped its popular instant-messaging software, calling it "The All New Yahoo! Messenger". The interface is definitely more refined, but the overall impression is one of feature-bloated software.

The upgrade (Windows only) is one of the software's most dramatic makeovers to date. The new look and feel focuses more on graphics and animation, and offers access to more areas of the popular Yahoo! website, such as photo sharing and two-player games. It also adds the option of displaying avatars and increased its choice of animated "smiley" emoticons.

These innovations didn’t go unnoticed here at El Reg, which has been using Yahoo! Messenger as its editorial switchboard for some time.

First thing we noticed is that Yahoo! Messenger resembles the all-new MSN Messenger, its biggest rival. Yahoo! Messenger now also boasts funky skins, user pictures and audibles - "Express yourself with talking characters full of attitude", as the blurb says.

Its new stealth settings will will be welcomed by many: you can now make yourself appear online to some and offline to others on your Messenger list.

It also includes Internet Radio from LaunchCAST, but when we tried it the player only offered one religious and one 70s disco station for free. To enjoy a wider choice, you have to pay. When you select a station, you can choose to display the current song title playing as part of your status message. This allows others to tune in with you by joining the station and discovering new music.

We liked the old Yahoo! Messenger for its compactness. The new version, however, is much bulkier, even without all the extras such as a Toolbar for Internet Explorer. It won't even let you resize the Messenger window. At least for now - Yahoo Messenger 6.0 is still in beta.

Of course, Yahoo! is not alone in expanding its IM services. So far, instant messaging hasn't been much of a money maker for MSN, AOL or Yahoo! By adding more features and turning their clients into virtual billboards, the IM vendors believe they can turn the tide.

There are exceptions. AOL’s new ICQ 4.0 client, for instance, is shedding the software's bloated image in favour of a new open source plug-in architecture.

Interoperability among all IM clients is another feature most of us would love to see, but don’t blame Yahoo! for not interconnecting all the major messaging systems. It has stated its desire to interoperate more than once. It is just that the neighbours won't listen. ®

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