Microsoft Corporation released its MSN Messenger program this week, a competitor for America Online's AOL Messenger, which allows people to chat in real time using the Internet. But MSN Messenger also works with AOL Messenger, so that users of either system can send messages back and forth. MSN Messenger requires the user to open a HotMail email account, which is free, and will inform you when email arrives at that account if desired.

"You have all these walled-off communities today where AOL users can talk to AOL users, Yahoo! users to Yahoo! users, but nobody has really bridged the gap," said Microsoft's Rob Bennett.

For more information about MSN Messenger, and the free download, please visit the MSN Messenger Web site