Some of our young readers probably don’t know what IRC is, but in short, it was a chat program where people could join channels and chat regarding it’s theme. Most channels were for small groups of friends, but eventually groups emerged to chat about common interests.
In an attempt to bring back this old/new type of social-networking, Microsoft is beta testing a new Live Messenger functionality called “Messenger Groups“.
Groups allows you to create a virtual chatroom that will always be available for those who wish to join it, or those you wish to invite. You’re not obligated to join it, but getting in is as easy and double clicking a contact on your friend list.
I tried out this new functionality just now with a few friends, and it works well enough. It’s not perfect, but good enough for small groups of friends.
I don’t see this generating large social communities, because it seems much better suited for small groups. And since you can only have two moderators at one time (the creator and the administrator), it would be almost impossible to moderate a large group of people.
This is definitely a step in the right direction, and if it evolves properly, it could very well be the thing that sets Messenger apart from all of the other IMs out there. I, for one, am happy to see Microsoft developing something for it’s messaging client that doesn’t focus on bringing them more income, or annoying it’s users (nudges anyone?).