At the end of this month, MSN Messenger will be no more. After fifteen years of operation since its launch in July 1999, Microsoft will finally switch off the service in China, the last country still to be using the service. MSN Messenger has been replaced by Skype, which they acquired for £5.2 billion back in 2011, which incorporates a messenger service with video functionality and the ability to call people.
Whilst instant messaging still exists and is used, MSN’s disappearance follows in the footsteps of other services popular in the nineties that are no longer in the public eye such as AIM and ICQ.
The Rise of MSN in the Nineties
From the era that brought us Take That, Spice Girls, Oasis, Jurassic Park and countless other great things in pop culture, the nineties was arguably the best generation for technology. Instant messaging appeared at a time when computers had grown in popularity with more families buying them for personal use. Mobile phones were very basic in terms of features – to make you feel old, 1999 also signalled the birth of the Nokia 3210 - and so the instantaneous nature of MSN was undoubtedly advantageous to users. At the launch of MSN Messenger, the then Vice President of the Consumer and Commerce Group at Microsoft, Brad Chase, said: “Communications continues to be the cornerstone of the Internet, and instant messaging is becoming a more prevalent way for people to communicate.” From humble beginnings of a simple chat service that allowed users to communicate with others using Hotmail or AOL, popularity soared as newer services were added. For families, it presented the chance to communicate quickly and conveniently with each other at very little cost (aside from internet usage, which was penny a minute or alike on dial-up) in comparison to contracts of 10p per text for mobile phones, which weren’t good for serial texters. From a business perspective, it allowed quick and easy communication between offices across the world, with wider benefits than post, telephone and fax.
The Ultimate Demise of MSN
Windows Live carried on growing and even in 2010 it had a user-base of over 300 million people. Even so, new kids on the block such as Skype were fresh offering potential and newer capabilities. It seemed a logical decision to merge the two for Microsoft despite the nostalgia and popularity of the service. In a blog, only visible through using the Internet Wayback Archive now, Jeff Kunins, the Group Program Manager of Microsoft in 2010, explained that changes in technology merely complemented existing communication methods. He said: “Like every major new communications paradigm over the past 20+ years, the thirst and demand that people have to connect, communicate, and share with one another is nearly limitless.“E-mail didn’t disrupt or reduce phone usage – it added to it. IM didn’t disrupt or reduce e-mail – it added to it. The same goes for mobile phones and text messaging, and the same too, for social networking over the past 5 years.” It almost seems prophetic: e-mail is still a primary method of communication, just as texting and social networking co-exist peacefully. Invariably though, the growth in mobile technology has had an impact on instant messaging clients in that they are no longer standalone services. Apps such as Snapchat allow the sharing of pictures immediately with small messages and social media sites such as Facebook have incorporated instant messaging services into the website. It merely reminds us that technology is constantly evolving. Nothing can last forever.
Five Nostalgic Moments You May Remember from MSN
As a way of recognising the importance of MSN Messenger, we have put together five nostalgic moments you may remember from using it. 5. Saving custom emoticons to your MSN Emoticons arguably gained their popularity from days using MSN. The best feature was being able to download your own moving emoticons or pictures and saving them as a random text combination. This made them pop up in the mJdle of sentences like this. 4. Adding the music link in your status Arguably one of the best things about MSN was that you could show just how cool you were with the extension that allowed people talking to you to see the music you were currently listening to in Windows Media Player. Although it may have raised eyebrows if anyone was paying close enough attention to see you skip past ‘Spice Girls’ in your library between Linkin’ Park and Korn. Or if you were so in love with one song that you played it repetitively and the same song status showed for hours. 3. The Nudge Function The nudge function was useful and incredibly annoying by the same token. The incessant wobbling was a pain and the fact that it always popped up at the front of your screen didn’t help to ignore it either. On the other hand, if you were impatient and needed an urgent response you could nudge the person you were talking to 500 times. Or you could just get nudged 500 times. Or you and your mate could have one of those ‘nudging wars’ where one person nudged, and the other nudged back repetitively. 2. Those repetitive ‘same old’ conversations If you – or the other person – coming online wasn’t particularly enthused by the thought of conversation (or you just found them a massive pain), it seemed that the back and forth of responses took the same turn every time. Hands up if you had one of these: Friend: Hi You: Hi Friend: How r u? You: Good thanks, u? Friend: Yeah, good thanks. Friend: What u upto? You: Nothing much, u? Friend: Nothing much either. *silence for several hours* Wow, the real humdrum of chit-chat! 1. Pressing enter loads of times/typing the alphabet to hide conversation from parents When parents were keeping an eye on you, you had two options: 1) quickly flick between windows, arousing further suspicions you were looking at something you shouldn’t. Or 2) keep the conversation open but press enter loads of times so your previous messages disappeared, or you would type the alphabet (much to the confusion of your mate) just to post a load of messages to clear the screen. Incidentally, this was also a method of getting attention of your mate like nudging. We are really sad to see MSN go, mainly because it was a major part of what we did growing up. It just follows a trend of things being ruined from our childhood *cough* Bob the Builder *cough*? Pure sacrilege. Do you have any more nostalgic memories of MSN? What was the best memory from nineties internet you remember?