No special comment on this, other than to note: look how fast things move. It wasn't long ago that we were in the 'pre-chat' era.
Microsoft announced this morning that it will shut down its free MSN chat rooms in Europe, Asia, and Latin America and limit the service in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Brazil in order to reduce criminal exploitation of children, pornographic spam, and other inappropriate uses. The changes will take effect October 14, according to Microsoft, and affect all of the countries in which MSN is available. Executives from the company noted that chat rooms were increasingly filled with inappropriate content for children in recent months as most legitimate users are moving from chat rooms to instant messaging (IM) for online chat.
"We recognize that [this inappropriate conduct and content] is a common industrywide problem," says MSN's Lisa Gurry. "We've taken a look at our service and how can we make efforts to step up our efforts to provide a safe environment ... The change is intended to help protect MSN users from unsolicited information such as spam and to better protect children from inappropriate communication online." The company's decision to change its chat strategy comes in the wake of a sharp increase in high profile cases worldwide where children and other people have been lured to physically meet with sexual offenders and other miscreants after chatting online.
In the US, Canada, Japan, and Brazil, MSN's chat rooms will stay open, but users will have to participate in at least one paid service at MSN, ensuring that Microsoft has their credit card number and other personal information on file in the event of abuse. Microsoft currently provides local MSN content in 33 countries and in 17 languages, and the company says that over 200 million people use the service worldwide; over 1.2 million people access the MSN chat rooms.