IMing to save the world

Thanks to a new charity drive started by Microsoft, IM-obsessed teenagers can now tell their parents that by staying online, they're helping charities like the Sierra Club, Unicef, and the National AIDS Fund. The initiative, called "I'm," is centered around a unique little gimmick: start a conversation in Microsoft's Windows Live Messenger with the word "I'm," and Microsoft will donate a (small) portion of Messenger's advertising revenue to one of its partner charities.

Yes, this is real. We're not talking the "forward this e-mail and Bill Gates will donate money" tales of urban legend fame.

But it's not quite as simple as you might think. First of all, the "I'm" campaign is tied to Windows Live Messenger, so users of multiplatform IM software like Trillian (as well as other instant messaging clients) aren't included in the deal. Additionally, you need to alter your "display name" with a text code that indicates which charity you'd like your "I'm" proceeds to go to.

And lastly, Microsoft's generosity only applies when you use "I'm" to start a conversation--i.e. when you open up a new window and start gabbing away. I guess that's necessary though, because it eliminates the possibility of trying to get good karma by spamming all your friends with I'm I'm I'm I'm I'm I'm I'm I'm I'm I'm I'm.

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