On Friday, Yahoo released a new 9.0 beta version of the popular Yahoo Messenger chat client. The company may not have changed the version number at all, but it did add a boatload of new features and changes for those of us who like to play with software on the edge.
The most obvious change in the new release is an additional status message at the top of Messenger. Along with the conventional "Available," "Busy," and the like, there's now an additional line for Facebook-style status updates, such as "Surfing YouTube for Andy Rooney Game videos."
The other big change is larger emoticons. Since the Yahoo emoticons are likely the only reason I actually use Messenger instead of multiservice clients such as Trillian, Pidgin, or Digsby, I was very curious to see what these new emoticons looked like...and to learn if there are there any new ones!
There are certainly six new ones--don't want to see (X_X); hurry up (:!!); rock on (\m/); thumbs up (:-bd); thumbs down (:-q); and my personal fave, it wasn't me (^#(^). The size change is barely noticeable, but the new ones are fun. I can only assume that there are more secret emoticons to discover, as well.
The coolest addition in this latest beta release is a new "Compact List" view for the main contacts display. The default view uses bigger avatar images and created a lot of scrolling for me, which I hate. The Compact List view now lets me view all of my online contacts, with virtually no scrolling at all.
Unfortunately, the install process for Yahoo Messenger beta is loaded with some sketchy behavior, such as forcing users to opt out of browser home page and default search-engine changes. It also hides the opt-out selection for the Yahoo Toolbar behind a "Custom Install" link. Users who run the standard install process will soon find Yahoo in their browsers, with no foreknowledge. Boo!
C'mon, Yahoo. That's bush-league installation behavior. Such good products deserve better treatment. All of those facets of the Yahoo service should be opt-in. I think you'd agree?