It's the end of an era for one of Microsoft's MSFT -0.24% most popular instant messaging software products. Microsoft started to phase out MSN Messenger (also known as Windows Live Messenger) globally in April 2013 and it will be completely shut down on October 31st. MSN Messenger is only available in mainland China until then. In an e-mail about the changes, Microsoft suggested that users switch to Skype. As an incentive to join Skype, Microsoft is offering a free $2 credit to users that make the switch.
Microsoft launched MSN Messenger in 1999 as a competitor to AOL AOL -2.36% Instant Messenger (AIM) and ICQ. MSN Messenger supported access to AIM, but America Online tried continuously to block Microsoft. As MSN Messenger grew in popularity, additional features were created like custom emoticons, games and a nudge feature that shakes the chat window. In 2005, Microsoft rebranded MSN Messenger to Windows Live Messenger. As of five years ago, Windows Live Messenger had over 330 million active users each month.
MSN Messenger was maintained in China through a partnership with Chinese media company TOM Group. The joint venture ended last year due to a dispute between TOM Group and Skype over the new users acquired by Skype during its 9 year history in China, according to Business Insider. Microsoft is operating Skype in China with a company called Guangming Founder. The Chinese version of Skype - which competes against Tencent's QQ messaging software - has been modified to support Internet regulations.
Skype was created by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström in August 2003. The two of them also built the file-sharing application KaZaa, a video-sharing service called Joost and online music streaming company Rdio. Skype was acquired by eBay EBAY -0.57% for $2.6 billion in September 2005. Since the integration of Skype and eBay did not work out, a group of investors led by private equity firm Silver Lake Partners bought a controlling of Skype for $1.9 billion from eBay in 2009. Two years later, Microsoft picked up Skype for $8.5 billion in October 2011 and the integration process started right away. For example, Skype was built into Microsoft Office 9 months later.
Many people feel nostalgic about MSN Messenger shutting down. MSN Messenger was around before Gmail, MySpace, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter TWTR -3.31% and Instagram. MSN Messenger will truly be missed by many.