Microsoft is set to release a beta version of its new messaging service. This is not a standard upgrade to its Messenger software; this is the product of NetGen, a division of Microsoft that is developing software aimed at the Net generation, i.e., teenagers and young adults who have grown up using the Internet.
The software, called Threedegrees, aims to create peer-to-peer social groups of up to 10 people. This allows for groups of friends to communicate with one another in their own groups so they can chat, share photos and video, and listen to music together. There is also a feature called Winks which allows one user to send animations to the rest of the group as an extra form of communication, much like the emoticons seen in the standard Messenger software. Individuals are not limited to one group, but can join several different groups with a range of people they know.
NetGen has modeled the software around a dinner party, which has several people around a table, music playing in the background, and communication going on. In the same way any group member can introduce music, which plays for the entire group, while communication through text and Winks goes on. Music is streamed from one of the members' hard drives, and play lists of up to 60 songs can be created.
The name Threedegrees is taken from the concept of "6 degrees of separation," which states that you can be linked to any other person on the planet via 6 other people. Beta testing will show Microsoft how well a social tool such as this is received. NetGen hopes to continue to push the "software for young adults" to Microsoft, and continue developing products for that age range.