Microsoft is pulling the plug on its free chat service in the UK.
Citing a rise in spam and offensive material, the company plans to eliminate its chat services completely in a total of 28 countries while restricting access to the chat groups in the US.
The changes will take place from 14 October, when MSN's chat services will be suspended in most countries.
Microsoft believes the changes were required to protect customers who were being inundated with inappropriate material. "Basically, it was an effort to provide a more safe and secure online experience," said a Microsoft spokeswoman.
The company is said to be particularly concerned about the use of chatrooms by paedophiles preying on children who frequent these forums.
But the move has been slammed by MSN rival Lycos. While it branded MSN's existing unmonitored and unregulated chatrooms "irresponsible", Lycos feels that "proper regulation and monitoring means children can have safe environments in which to chat online".
Lycos UK boss Alex Kovach says: "Walking away from chatrooms will only drive this underground," making children even more vulnerable. He believes MSN, as one of the biggest players in the market, has a responsibility to create secure chatrooms for children. Lycos offers 24-hour moderation in its chatrooms.