Windows Live Messenger, R.I.P.

Windows Live Messenger, R.I.P.

Microsoft's venerable IM client heads off into the sunset

Messenger, you had a good run. But nothing lasts forever. On April 8, 2013, Microsoft will begin a phased end-of-life migration for an instant messaging (IM) application that is still used by hundreds of millions of people. Fortunately, these customers won’t be left hanging with no one to chat with online. Microsoft is moving them to Skype.

Microsoft has been warning Messenger customers about the change for weeks. Indeed, I’ve received several email messages about the Messenger-to-Skype conversion in recent days. According to the messages, the process is simple enough: Just download Skype and sign in to the app with your Messenger ID (now called a Microsoft account). And if you click on the Upgrade link within Messenger, it will even automatically uninstall Windows Live Messenger for you, so there’s no confusion.

Related: "2013 Promises to Be a Big Year for Lync"

Back in January, I tested this migration ahead of the hard stop so that I could evaluate where theory and reality diverged. And at the time, there were all kinds of problems, including missing contacts and a strange condition in which my own contacts didn’t know I was online. I had to go back—temporarily—to Windows Live Messenger.

Since then, however, Microsoft issued several updates to the Skype client, many of which address problems with the Messenger-to-Skype migration. And my experience over the past three weeks or so has been quite positive.

Which is good news, because the first tens of millions of Windows Live Messenger customers will be migrating to Skype next week whether they’re ready or not. According to the timeline, Microsoft will flip the switch on the first batch of Windows Live Messenger users: customers in English-speaking countries. Then it will continue moving users over throughout April, ending the process on April 30.

There are still questions about the back-end service—Microsoft tells me that it will remain in operation and become part of the Skype infrastructure—and third-party and mobile clients, which most likely will be cut off throughout 2013. The Messaging apps in Windows 8/Windows RT and Windows Phone 8, for example, can integrate with the Messenger service, and it’s not clear when/how/whether those apps will stop working.

Microsoft will also separately maintain its Lync product line as the business-oriented alternative to Skype, which is aimed at consumers. Lync will be updated over the next year to interoperate with—or “federate”—Skype services features such as audio chat, IM, and video chat.

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