With Messenger 6, now available as a public beta, Microsoft eases into a comfortable lead -- in terms of features and quality -- over instant-messaging rivals AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo. An updated and smooth interface and fun features such as Webcam support and online gaming should make this instant messenger (IM) the office time-waster of choice. You'll even find a few productivity enhancements in Messenger 6, such as an elegant peer-to-peer file-sharing application. Not surprisingly, Messenger 6 doesn't address the biggest IM question: how to chat with users of incompatible systems, including AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and ICQ. Die-hard IMers will still have to rely on third-party software, such as Trillian, to solve that one. Here at ZDNet, we don't recommend installing beta software, but if you can hold out for the final version, MSN Messenger 6 promises to be an excellent upgrade.