Although the Microsoft.com chat service has been around for quite some time it has always relied on the MSN Chat ActiveX control. This had many restrictions. Users couldn't connect behind most corporate firewalls because the ActiveX control connected them to an IRC server effectively. The chat has now been revamped and over the coming weeks will be rolled out across all Microsoft chats and Tech-Net chats.
This is great news for those working at the time the chats are on. The new design is cleaner, requires no ActiveX control and most importantly connects using the HTTP protocol. Since the chat doesn't work in Firefox; Jana Carter (Technical Chat Product Manager) let us know that Microsoft are looking into increasing browser support in upcoming releases. A new addition to the chat is that you authenticate using .NET Passport. This makes it easier for chat moderators to ensure you are who you claim to be and to filter out individuals not sticking to chat rules.
Feel free to check out the new chat service by following the URL below. Microsoft welcome any feedback about the new service so please leave comments and we will ensure they're fed back. Thank you.