In the updated version of Windows Live Messenger, the instant-messaging program that’s a part of the Windows Live Essentials suite (beta), there’s a new feature called “full view.” This optional setting lets you expand your Messenger interface from the traditional compact view that shows just your contact list to a wider view that functions more like a social dashboard.
Here, you can see social networking updates, photos and status messages from your friends as well as headlines, news and weather from MSN and soon, social games from Xbox LIVE too.
Your full contact list is still available in the full view, of course – it’s just positioned to the right side of the screen instead of being the primary focus.
Upon initial setup, Windows Live Messenger walks you through a process to configure your privacy settings (a much less confusing process that what Facebook offers, I might add). You can keep your current settings, if you had previously configured them via Windows Live, or you can choose from three options: Public, Limited (only friends can see your activity, but everyone can find you in search and view your profile), or Private.
You’re then prompted to set up Messenger’s homepage – you choose either “Social” or “MSN” depending on whether you want it to default to a Social or News view.
Afterwards, you’re presented with your new dashboard, which either features news (if you picked MSN) or a very News Feed-like presentation of what your friends are doing around the web. You can even comment on the items posted, if you choose.
Also note that in the bottom-right corner of this screen, you can click the “Add” button to connect Facebook and MySpace to Messenger. This lets you see your friends activities on those networks and let them see yours. You can also publish photos from Messenger to Facebook and tag your friends in them!
After adding Facebook and/or MySpace, you can also click “connect more services” which takes you over to Windows Live where you can pick from dozens of others, including popular social sites like flickr, Twitter, Pandora, Digg, Hulu, YouTube, Photobucket, Last.fm, and more plus blogging sites like WordPress, TypePad and LJ and news sites like CNET and and Newsvine. (Note: if you had previously enabled these on Windows Live, you don’t have to do anything else – they will still be set up).
If the social/news dashboard isn’t your thing, don’t worry – you can go back to compact view at any time. Just click the slider button at the top right of your screen for the traditional interface.