Microsoft’s MSN Messenger, or Windows Live Messenger as it’s now called, will be phased out entirely on October 31. The software maker previously announced plans to move users to Skype last year, but Microsoft has kept the service in China. After October 31, Chinese Messenger users will remain required to use Skype, which will end 15 years of service.
MSN Messenger began life in 1999 as a rival to AOL’s AIM service. Both companies fought for cat domination. Microsoft made AOL’s reverse-engineered chat protocol allow MSN Messenger to connect to AIM, a process that AOL did not like when Microsoft first launched its instant messaging client. Over the years, Microsoft has added various features, including custom emoticons, the ability to play Minesweeper with friends, a thumbs-up feature that would shake up the friends chat window, and the great winks option. Boring to send giant animated emoticons to friends.
Microsoft has typically celebrated its MSN Messenger milestones with big green mascot outfits, but the 15-year mark and the end of the Messenger era are slowly moving away. It is what MSN Messenger looked like, at a time when everyone put emoticons in their name or status message, and your mom picking up the phone and cutting your modem connection to MSN Messenger was just as annoying as someone using the same font and color as you are in a conversation. Goodbye, MSN Messenger.
Inside Microsoft’s ’90s Chat War With AOL
Microsoft may have recently phased out its Messenger service in favor of Skype, but in 1999 it was the centerpiece of a bitter war between the software giant and AOL. At the time, Microsoft had just introduced its [MSN Messenger] service as a direct competitor to AOL’s popular AIM instant messaging service. David Auerbach recounts his unusual role in a chat war with AOL, a former Microsoft engineer who worked directly on [MSN Messenger]. Auerbach had reverse-engineered AOL’s chat protocol to allow [MSN Messenger] to connect to AIM. This process didn’t satisfy AOL when Microsoft first launched its instant messaging client in July. 1999.
AOL continued to block [MSN Messenger] from accessing AIM, and Auerbach persisted at Microsoft by creating new ways to bypass the blocks in place. The battle led AOL to use a security bug in its AIM software to prevent Microsoft from accessing its AIM service, a move that forced Auerbach and his colleagues to abandon any dreams of interoperability between AIM and [MSN Messenger] but not before an unknown Microsoft. Employee pretended to be a software consultant to try to get security experts to detail the AOL flaw. Auerbach’s story is fascinating as the war on instant messaging began before it became a daily part of the internet.
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