Initially known as MSN Messenger since its birth in 1999 and Windows Live Messenger since 2005, the one who was the king of instant messaging services closed its rooms on October 31, 2014. A year and a half later and with the wisdom they have On Mondays when you see the results of the pools, you can ask why.
MSN Messenger competed at the height of the other giants of the messaging of the time: ICQ, AIM of AOL and Yahoo!. And it was that they were other times. In the 90s, the first services that provided Internet connection in American homes began to emerge.
The birth of MSN
In the mid-nineties and in the vortex of the launch of Windows 95, Microsoft faced its first big challenge: the popularization of the internet in homes. The Redmond company was about to finish its new operating system, Windows 95, which would be released in August 1995. A few months before, Bill Gates sent a memorandum to his executive team that ended up becoming a very significant document for the time.
The document in question was titled “The Internet Tidal Wave” and can be read in full in this link. The importance of internet development for your company can be summarized in these few sentences …
Right now, I assign the highest level of importance to the Internet. In this memorandum I want to make it clear that our focus on the Internet is crucial for every part of our business. The Internet is the greatest technological advance since IBM introduced the first PC in 1981. It is even more important than the arrival of graphical user interfaces (GUI).
Gates was scared at the threat the internet posed to his business. He considered that Microsoft was not sufficiently prepared for his arrival and that two key pieces of his software, Internet Explorer and MSN, were not ready. But in the end they did accompany Windows 95 on the day of its launch.
At that time, each online content provider had its own fenced field from which its subscribers could not leave. So the Internet was reduced to what companies like AOL or Microsoft with MSN offered in their portals. The inclusion of MSN in Windows 95 was a move that brought legal problems to Microsoft, as its competitors accused him of abusing his position.
Although the legal fight did not go very far, because MSN was a fiasco from the beginning. But not for that Microsoft threw the towel.
MSN Messenger and war with AOL
The internet connection providers had a total influence on the content that their subscribers saw. Being a closed network, there was no possibility of leaving the “fenced field”. However, in the late 1990s instant messaging services provided by these same companies began to become popular.
AOL (America OnLine) was among the first to launch its AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) service in 1997. Immediately, users began using this service as a way to escape from that garden watched over by their Internet providers. Due to the popularity of its competitors, Microsoft launched its own messaging client in 1999. MSN Messenger was born, a rudimentary customer with just a list of contacts and plain text.
From the beginning, MSN Messenger wanted to offer the possibility to chat also with users of other messaging services. That’s why, in its launch it was compatible with the AIM network. Something that AOL did not like at all, which started an open war between both services.
Each time Microsoft enabled this communication, AIM modified its code to verify that its client communicated only with AIM clients, excluding those of MSN Messenger. So until Microsoft issued another version that enabled this functionality again. Finally, Microsoft abandoned its attempt to connect to the AIM servers.
The Messenger generation
Anyone who was a teenager during the golden age of MSN Messenger, will remember how important this program was. As soon as you got home from school, you sat in front of the computer and turned on the program to chat with the friends you had just been in school with. “The Messenger” replaced calls to landline phones, providing a more private environment.
MSN Messenger began to incorporate features that were the germ of the current social networks. Each user had a status bar at their disposal from which they could display a personal message. It was the precursor to one of the reasons for Facebook’s success.
The status button was also very popular, with which you could quickly tell your contacts if you were available, busy or offline. Or remain invisible so that nobody bothers you. This functionality was so popular that websites were created that allowed knowing the status of each user if their email was available. Or know even if I had blocked you.
At the end of 2005, MSN Messenger was renamed Windows Live Messenger. Its growth accelerated, especially outside the US where AIM remained the leader. China was one of the countries where this service was extended, at least until the Tencent company released its own QQ messaging service.
The stalemate of MSN Messenger
The courier services soon found themselves with an implacable enemy: their business model. AIM had to face its own corporation to maintain the development of a service that cost to maintain, but that was incapable to generate income by itself. And it is that until then, the messaging services were just a bait with which to keep the internet subscribers in the portals.
But, as the web was opened and users found more content outside the domains of their connection providers, it was clear that a portal was not the way to make the efforts more profitable. This is how courier customers hit the roof.
It was not until June 2009 when MSN Messenger reached its peak: 330 million monthly users. It followed convulsive years, in which the technological industry suffered a profound paradigm shift. We were entering the era of the smartphone.
2007, the rise of the smartphone
An iPod, a phone and an internet communications device – Steve Jobs .
The ideas around what we now consider a social network have been hanging around in instant messaging networks like Windows Live Messenger. From the network of contacts to the ability to send photos and messages. Certainly, Facebook was not the first social network to launch, but it was the first to do well.
As Mark Zuckerberg’s social network relaxed its limitations when it came to incorporating new users, the erosion of MSN Messenger users began. It also joined the Skype feast, founded in 2003 in Denmark, a company that would eventually be acquired by Microsoft itself in May 2011. Messenger would end up integrating with Skype in 2013, but would maintain its independent operation in China until 2014.
But what really ended up sealing the fate of Windows Live Messenger was the appearance of the smartphone. Microsoft did not miss this wave and developed versions of all kinds for BlackBerry OS, Xbox 360, iOS, Java ME, S60 and even its own Zune HD. It did not help.
Competitors such as BlackBerry Messenger (of whom we now know that the Canadian police had the encryption keys) were the pioneers in mobile messaging . But it was not until the appearance of the iPhone in January 2007, the launch of its App Store in 2008 and the popularization of Android as of 2010 when Windows Live Messenger received the last deadly blow.
Viewing the latest reports on the situation of the PC market, with drops to levels almost ten years ago, we could almost say that the fall of Windows Live Messenger was like the canary in the mine. The permanent connection to the internet and ubiquity made the smartphone the perfect device to replace the instant messaging of the PC.
The smartphone was a kind of rise. Newly formed and less experienced companies took the baton of Windows Live Messenger and ran with it. WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Line, WeChat, to name a handful.
Messenger could not recover from the successive blows of the Post-PC Era (which does not mean “without PC”). At the end of 2012, Microsoft announced the merger of the service with Skype by the end of 2013. The Chinese version was maintained for one more year. On All Saints’ Day 2014, the chat rooms were silent forever.