Microsoft has announced a beta of Windows Live Messenger v8.1. This will be available for direct sign-ups at www.ideas.live.com

Current Windows Live Messenger users and Microsoft beta testers will be invited to test the beta through an email and links on the Messenger Today page.

The new version provides improved service and security and a faster sign-in process. Your display photo and name will also roam with the user to any computer used to sign in to Messenger.

Microsoft is additionally offering two free calls to virtually anywhere in the world to all new customers using Verizon Web Calling .