The login screen and version number - look closely and you'll see that it's different from previous versions... this one's been made in WPF/.NET 3.0.
The new conversation window, with WPF effects and a background turned on.
Showing you the contrast of different colours you can use (any of the Windows palette) and how they look in the new user interface.
Same old connection preview; nothing has changed here.
This is where you can change your Signature Sound; the sound you make to others when you log in to Messenger. You can cut, edit and preview any sound you like.
The Favourites group - gives you a better look at your contacts, what they're doing and their status. Ideal for group projects and working online - see when people are doing particular things and keeping the group updated.
Although the full extent of "groups" aren't clear yet, it seems these may integrate Windows Live Groups, the new name for MSN Groups, in the near future. This'll help keeping track of those study sessions, the support group pages and updates to your modules.
...and it's a piece of cake to set up your own and invite your friends/colleagues.
Hide or show the menu bar, all with WPF sliding effects.
For those with Windows XP, this is what Messenger 9 will look like. Your default Windows theme will not apply, and you can change the colour of your window still - even changing your title bar and the rest of the program.
Of course... there are still bugs to be ironed out. Make sure if you're using Messenger, you install the OneCare anti-virus. A single innocent looking journal article could be ridden with the electronic clap.
PhotoShare, may or may not be the final name of the feature, allows you to share pictures or in this case screenshots, to your friends and colleagues. Ideal for those programming assignments where it's easier to screenshot than to copy whole chunks of code over.
Naturally, for the younger users, a report abuse feature sits right next to your contact list, should you be approached or visited by online nasties. By those, I mean sick perverted bastards, not the bog-standard computer virus.
Message history's continue in this build, allowing you to go back and revisit your conversations. Sometimes looking back over a discussion makes writing that dull essay a little more inspirational.
The signature sounds - you can customise all of your Messenger sounds with predefined sounds, or you can pick your own. Pick different sounds for different people; my little sister's is the Imperial March theme - quite fitting actually.
The block/report feature - a highly useful tool in this day and age. If someone's added you and is spamming you with messages, two clicks away and they're off your list, deleted and blocked, and a report has been sent to Microsoft in the flash of a second.
Can you be in two places at once? Course you can. WLM9 allows you to sign-in at multiple locations, so you can remain logged in wherever you may be in the world. At work, at home, in the university library, at the gym, at the coffee shop on wi-fi.
And finally - the WPF text, with the Vista style glowing text. It still needs a bit of refinement, but it gives that extra "razz" to your contact list.