Microsoft Corporation announced Wednesday the immediate availability of MSN Instant Messenger 3.0 (IM3), the only free IM client to support free long distance phone service in the United States and Canada. Using technology from Net2Phone's PC-to-phone products, IM 3 allows users to communicate verbally as well as with a traditional keyboard interface. IM3 comes at the one-year anniversary of the original MSN Messenger Service, and Microsoft notes that its MSN family of services is number one on the Internet now, with over 201 million unique users.

"At this one-year milestone, we are thrilled to deliver MSN Messenger 3.0, the most complete messaging service on the Internet for the average consumer," says Yusuf Mehdi, the vice president of Microsoft's Consumer Group. "From new phone calling capabilities that save users money to the many integrated and personal ways to communicate within MSN Messenger, we continue to deliver on our goal of helping people get more from the Web."

New features in MSN IM3 include the previously mentioned voice communications, file sharing capabilities, page and cell phone messaging, automatic typing indicator so you can see when others are responding, customizable font styles and colors and sounds, and some new emoticons. MSN IM3, which is available for free download from the Messenger Web site, boasts over 18 million users worldwide, with over 7 million of those users joining since March. However, America Online (AOL) is the overwhelming market leader for IM clients, with 91 million AOL Instant Messenger users and 62 million ICQ users