Initially known as MSN Messenger since its inception in 1999 and Windows Live Messenger since 2005, the former king of instant messaging services closed its halls 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 may wonder why.
MSN Messenger competed at the height of the other messaging giants of the time: ICQ, AOL AIM and Yahoo! And it was other times. In the 1990s, the first services that provided Internet connectivity in American homes began to emerge.
The birth of MSN
In the mid-1990s and in the midst of the maelstrom of the release of Windows 95, Microsoft faced its first major challenge: the popularization of the Internet in homes. The company in Redmond was about to finish its new operating system, Windows 95, that would see the light in August of 1995. A few months earlier, Bill Gates sent a memorandum to his executive team that turned out to be a very meaningful 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 phrases …
Right now, I assign the Internet the highest level of importance. In this memo, I want to make it clear that our focus on the Internet is crucial to every part of our business. The Internet is the biggest technological breakthrough since IBM introduced the first PC in 1981. It is even more important than the arrival of graphical user interfaces (GUI).
Gates was frightened by the internet threat to his business. He considered that Microsoft was not ready enough for his arrival and that two key pieces of his software, Internet Explorer and MSN, were not ready. But in the end yes they accompanied Windows 95 the day of its launch.
At that time, every online content provider had its own fenced field of which its subscribers could not get out. So the internet was reduced to what companies like AOL or Microsoft with MSN offered on 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 that was not why Microsoft threw in the towel.
MSN Messenger and its war with AOL
The Internet connection providers had a total influence on the content that their subscribers viewed. Being a closed network, there was no possibility of getting out of the “fenced field”. However, at the end of the 90 began to popularize instant messaging services provided by these same companies.
AOL (America OnLine) was 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 contact list and plain text.
From the beginning, MSN Messenger wanted to offer the possibility of chatting with users of other messaging services as well. Therefore, at launch it was compatible with the AIM network. Which did not like AOL at all, which started an open war between both services.
Whenever Microsoft enabled this communication, AIM modified its code to verify that its client communicated only with AIM clients, excluding MSN Messenger. So until Microsoft emitted another version that enabled this functionality again. Finally, Microsoft abandoned in its attempt to connect to the servers of AIM.
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The Messenger Generation
Anyone who has been 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 would sit in front of the computer and turn on the chat program with the friends you were just in school with. “Messenger” replaced calls to the landline, providing a more private environment.
MSN Messenger began to incorporate functionalities that were the germ of the current social networks. Each user had at his disposal a status bar from which he could display a personal message. It was the forerunner of one of the reasons for Facebook’s success.
Also the status button was very popular, with which you could quickly tell your contacts if you were available, busy or offline. Or stay invisible so nobody will bother you. This functionality was so popular that websites were created that allowed to know the status of each user if his email was available. Or even know if it had blocked you.
At the end of 2005, MSN Messenger was renamed as 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 most extended, at least until the Tencent company pulled out its own QQ messaging service.
The stagnation of MSN Messenger
Messaging services soon encountered a relentless foe: their business model. AIM had to confront its own corporation to maintain the development of a service that was costly to maintain, but which was unable to generate revenue by itself. And is that until then, the messaging services were just a hook with which to keep the subscribers of the internet service inside the portals.
But as the web 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 best of their efforts. This is how courier customers hit the roof.
It was not until June 2009 when MSN Messenger reached its maximum quota: 330 million monthly users. It followed years of convulsions, in which the technological industry underwent a profound paradigm shift. We were entering the smartphone era.
2007 the smartphone revolution
The ideas around what we now consider a social network have been spinning 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, erosion of users of MSN Messenger began. He also joined the Skype feast, founded in 2003 in Denmark, a company that eventually would 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 emergence of the smartphone. Microsoft did not miss this wave and developed versions of all types for BlackBerry OS, Xbox 360, iOS, Java ME, S60 and even its own Zune HD. It did not help.
Competitors like BlackBerry Messenger (who now know that 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 from 2010 when Windows Live Messenger received the last fatal thrust.
The fall of Messenger can be interpreted as an indicator of the problems that would come later to the PC market. A kind of canary in the mine
Seeing the latest reports on the PC market situation, 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 revolution. Newly formed and less experienced companies took the Windows Live Messenger toe and ran with it. WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Line, WeChat, to name a few.
Messenger could not recover from the successive blows of the Post-PC Era (which does not mean “no PC”). In late 2012, Microsoft announced the merger of the service with Skype by the end of 2013. The Chinese version was maintained for another year. On All Saints Day 2014, the chat rooms were silent forever.