RealTime IT News

MSN Putting Search in IM Beta

Hoping to drive users to its new MSN Search service, Microsoft announced it will release a new beta of its messenger client with an embedded search bar. Due Monday, the move signals a more aggressive approach to winning the competitive search war.

The limited beta of MSN Messenger 7.0 will include a search box at the bottom of the IM client, a Microsoft spokesperson told internetnews.com. Within an MSN IM conversation, users will be able to highlight a word, right-click and choose a new search option to handle queries for that word.

The beta will also feature tighter integration with Microsoft's Threedegrees social networking service. It will allow users to trade "winks," which are a combination of images and sounds that can be transmitted via IMs to grab the attention of buddies.

"Winks" have become a popular feature on Threedegrees, which also lets users listen to a shared playlist simultaneously; share digital images; or set up group chat sessions with MSN Messenger.

The MSN Messenger 7.0 beta, which launches in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Korea and the Netherlands, will also let users purchase "value-added transactional services" like avatars and emoticon packs.

This latest search tactic could give Microsoft a leg up on rivals AOL and Yahoo . MSN Messenger currently jostles for market share with AOL AIM and Yahoo Messenger. And it soon may have competition from Google, as there is mounting speculation that the search giant is also working on an IM product of its own.