Internet media company Yahoo Inc. on Sunday announced a major relaunch of Yahoo Messenger, its messaging product that allows people to communicate in real-time via the Internet.
The Sunnyvale, California-based company dubbed this latest update the "All New Yahoo! Messenger" and will roll out most new features on Monday.
"It really is a very dramatic step forward" both in terms of technology and the appearance of the site, said Lisa Mann, Yahoo's senior director for messaging products.
New features include animated "audibles" that say hello or flirt and "avatars" that represent users and can be customized with different hairstyles, clothes or ethnicities.
The service also will make it easier to play games with friends and share photos, music lists and information obtained from Web searches, among other things.
Yahoo Messenger ranks No. 2 behind AOL's instant messaging services, but ahead of a rival offering from Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Internet unit.