I got an email tonight that I wasn't sure I was ever going to get. The Yahoo! team has finally released a preview of their Yahoo! Messenger for Vista which is built on Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). First of all, kudos to the team. Screenshots of this application always looked fantastic and as far as messaging applications go, I think it blows every other app out of the water. There are those of you who will say "listen, all I want to do is send text back and forth, I don't care about UX". That's fine, but if you're running Vista, download messenger and tell me if you feel the same way.
One thing I thought was interesting is that despite using WPF, which can run on XP, this is exclusively for Vista. It wouldn't let me download and install it on my XP machine in VMWare. That said, the new version just feels like a native Vista application and all that entails including richness, transparencies, and very powerful reflow features. The new version of Y!M also provides a great deal of customization. You can quickly and easily create your own rich experience in any window. The feature list has items that are good, but not quite revolutionary including spell checker, very quick search (great for multiple contacts) and being able to transfer large files. Those are all good, but they aren't why I like the new messenger so much.
Conversations are meant to be personal and human. Being able to quickly chat is great, and the built in Gtalk for Gmail is a good example of a quick and dirty IM client. But the new Yahoo! Messenger re-humanizes IM conversations. It provides a rich experience around instant messaging that makes it feel more personal and more engaging. You're supposed to have that emotional attachment when you talk to someone and it's the little transitions, flow, and animations that help restore that humanity. I know it sounds cheesy, but this application brings a lot of the human element back to chatting for me because of it's user experience. That's part of what RIAs are all about: more natural experiences through user interface.