MICROSOFT WILL SHUT DOWN its formerly popular instant messaging (IM) service MSN Messenger worldwide on 31 October after 15 years.
Microsoft launched MSN Messenger in 1999, designed to compete with AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM) application. But Microsoft started to phase out the IM service, also known as Windows Live Messenger, globally in April 2013, with the desktop version being replaced with Voice over IP (VoIP) service Skype.
The Redmond firm kept the MSN Messenger flame alight until now by still allowing users in China to continue to use the service. However, according to various reports in China, the firm has told users that Halloween will see the final nail in the coffin for the outdated service.
Redmond has offered Chinese users two complementary Skype coupons that can be used for international calls to say sorry for the switch off and said they will merge contacts into the voice and chat service.
Since Microsoft took over Skype in 2011, it has worked on a back to basics approach that has resulted in the nearly complete closure of its APIs, locking out third-party developers as it sought to achieve feature parity across all operating systems.
However, with the rise of alternatives including Viber, Apple's Facetime, Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger, the company is increasingly having to review its services to ensure that it remains competitive.
In July, Skype introduced free group chats for up to 10 people on tablets and convertible devices.
Previously a premium feature, all video calls with more than two but less than eleven people are now gratis on tablets, joining the free service across Windows, Mac and Xbox One devices, with updates to Skype client software for other operating systems to be rolled out later. µ