Microsoft's most trusted testers are receiving early invites to a beta test of Windows Live Messenger 9.0. Don't worry if you haven't made the cut though, the indications are that this is a really early build of the app and the beta test will grow by some margin.
At present Messenger 9.0 is a private beta through the corporation's Microsoft Connect service - that's the same site it uses to dispatch early builds of other software such as Office.
Multiple locations and devices
The main change for Windows Live Messenger 9.0 is that you'll be able to be online in more than one place, like you can be with Skype.
That means you can be connected to Messenger on a mobile device as well as on your desktop PC. In Microsoft parlance this is called Multiple Points Of Presence (MPOP). Up to four locations are supported.
Microsoft says there are also other behind the scenes changes, but to be honest it looks like most things are cosmetic. There is a potentially annoying new annoying system process though - wlcomm.exe that runs in the background.
This is supposed to sign you into Windows Live Messenger faster and keep your contacts up-to-date across all Windows Live services. We're simply not fans of needing extra processes to do this kind of stuff - it's yet another reason for Windows to run more sluggishly.
There are other small changes to voice and video features as well as the ability to have a clickable URL as your personal status message. Animated GIF display pictures are also allowed. How 1996.