Update: Microsoft: Don't use leaked MSN Messenger 6 beta

Concerns expressed about code stability

Microsoft urges users not to run leaked beta versions of its forthcoming MSN Messenger Version 6 instant messaging application because the software is not ready for consumer use.

Early versions of MSN Messenger 6 have popped up on dozens of Web sites and new sites spring up every day. Microsoft said the versions that are offered on the Web are meant for internal testing only and that it does not know who leaked the software.

"We had intended for the beta to be an internal beta only. MSN strongly discourages users from downloading a beta from unauthorized sites due to concerns about the stability of the code and lack of complete information," Microsoft's MSN unit said in a statement sent via e-mail Friday.

Microsoft has asked individual Web sites offering the beta for download to pull the software, Larry Grothaus, lead product manager for MSN said. Users should be patient and wait for the "public preview" of the application that is due out in the next couple of weeks, he said.

Microsoft later said there is no stability issue, but that it does not want users to download the beta versions from unauthorized sites because it likes to control the distribution, wants to make sure customers are using complete versions of the software and because it wants to have feedback measures in places so everybody knows it is a beta product.

Still, Microsoft is thrilled about the popularity of the beta software: over 2 million people have downloaded the leaked versions, according to a memo sent Thursday to the MSN team by Blake Irving, corporate vice president of the MSN & Personal Services Division, MSN Communications and Merchant Platform group at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft.

"[MSN Messenger, Version] 6 is fast becoming one of the most addictive services we've ever created," Irving wrote. "Anyone that has used V6 knows why it's a winning service ... I don't think the industry will have seen such a thing since ICQ got big years and years ago."

ICQ, launched in 1996, is one of the first Internet instant messaging tools. It was developed in Israel by Mirabilis Ltd. and is now owned by America Online Inc. ICQ was popular, especially in the late nineties.

MSN Messenger 6 promises improvements to the user interface, new personalization features, integrated online gaming and built-in voice and video chat features. The final version of MSN Messenger 6 should be out "a couple of months" at most after the public preview becomes available in the coming weeks, Grothaus said.

Microsoft offers a preview of what MSN Messenger 6 will look like on its Web site at http://messenger.msn.com/sneakpeek.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.