I've been using the new beta version of Windows Live Messenger since its release last week. I was originally going to quickly blast out my opinions of it. But I'm glad I've waited the extra few days.

My first issue which didn't manifest itself fully until the weekend is adverts. Now I understand that Messenger requires a fairly substantial server backend to operate. But isn't this going a little over the top?

Conversation window in Windows Live Messenger (Wave 4)

Yes upon opening a Messenger chat window you get a banner add in the actual conversation. Note I did remove it for the purpose of this screenshot. You can close the advert, which I'm sure will generate more accidental clicks on the ad than leaving it open. To answer my question yes this is totally over the top.

The ad in the Messenger contact list view is unchanged from the last version, and with the new expanded social feature you get a bigger ad instead. I actually like the social view and think it'll be one of Messenger's most liked features (when Twitter support is enabled).

I'm also liking that it works properly with the Windows 7 taskbar now, previously WLM would spawn a weird icon in the taskbar with a non-existent window preview. Then if you had the contact list open it would show up as a second preview. Weird. The rest of the program seems nice and fast, ignoring the ads it also looks a bit cleaner. Tabbed conversations is also a nice improvement. I also like being able to have group conversations with up to 40 people now, up from 20 in the last version. Although you can't actually expand groups to see who's a member anymore. I suppose mainly for privacy reasons.

I'm still undecided on the new emoticons. So I'll give them some time.

I am concerned about the fact ink support has been erased, whenever I was on my tablet most of the time I would ink directly into Messenger. This feature being lost is in my opinion a substantial set back. I'd often draw things to get my point across.

All in all its a decent upgrade and I would recommend people check out the beta. It's pretty solid and doesn't seem to have broken anything else. From now until the final version I'd like to see the Messenger team think again about the advertising, how about removing all adverts for Xbox Live Gold subscribers eh? That'll provide some nice value-ad for those Gold subscribers who don't really need it, like myself. Oh and get ink support back please.

You can download it from the beta website and learn more about it from the Wave 4 preview website.