Parents and educators, take note: Software giant Microsoft Corp. thinks it just might understand today's teenagers—or at least how they behave online.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company is betting its new software, called threedegrees, will define hipness in greasing teen social connections—and help it capture a budding generation from competitors led by America Online.

Aimed at the 13-24 age group, the software, now in beta-testing, is like high-octane instant-messaging.

Users can create groups of up to 10 people, trade messages, listen to music from each


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