Countdown clock: Microsoft marches toward its Messenger phase-out

Countdown clock: Microsoft marches toward its Messenger phase-out

Summary: A reminder for those using the desktop version of Windows Live Messenger: On April 8, Microsoft will begin moving the tens of millions of users of its consumer instant-messaging service to Skype.


In a week, on April 8, Microsoft is set to begin moving the tens of millions of users still on its desktop version of its Windows Live Messenger instant-messaging service to Skype IM.


Microsoft will begin its worldwide phase-out of the desktop version of Messenger, starting with those in English-speaking countries, and ending with Portuguese. The entire "retirement" should be completed by April 30 or so, officials have said. (Skype officials are not providing a timetable as to when Microsoft plans to retire Messenger on mobile, Windows 8, Windows RT and/or multivendor platforms.)

Microsoft's Skype team has been prompting repeatedly via e-mail those who have not already proactively moved off Messenger about the impending phase-out.

Since Microsoft announced its updated timetable for phasing out Messenger in mid-February, I've received a number of questions from readers about the move. It took a while, but here are answers to some of those lingering questions, courtesy of a Skype spokesperson:

Q: Some Messenger users are concerned about an age restriction affecting some attempting to merge their Skype-Messenger contacts. Supposedly, users must be 18 to do this. But many kids use Messenger. What’s the advice here?

Skype: We apologize for any difficulty experienced. We are pleased to tell you that children with a valid Microsoft account can now use Skype by logging in with their Microsoft account. The process will follow the parental controls you have already established for the child’s Microsoft account. This means children (with the appropriate parental consent for their country) can now choose to use Skype by signing in with a Microsoft Account (MSA). In the US or Korea, parental consent (per standard MSA flow, meaning if it already is authorized, it already works) is required.

Q: Does Skype have the same Remote Assistance capability as Messenger?

Skype: On Skype, users can share screens and walk through assistance via voice or text. This is slightly different from the Remote Assistance functionality on Messenger.

Q: Will Skype be supported by MSN Premium, specifically within the browser that comes with the service?

Skype: MSN Premium customers who have the Windows desktop client of Windows Live Messenger will be upgraded to Skype as part of the process that starts on April 8. We will have more information regarding Messenger experiences on other platforms at a later time.

Microsoft officials have said previously that those using Messenger via a third-party instant messaging service -- like Trillian, Digsby, Pidgin or IM++, for example -- will have a somewhat longer reprieve from being shut off. But eventually third-party interfaces will be shut down. Each service has its own timetable for this shut-down, which each service will be charged with disclosing, Microsoft officials have said.

Update: I wonder how much Microsoft has disclosed to these third-party IM providers about the phase-out. In January 2013, Cerulean Studios (the company behind Trillian) blogged in late January 2013 about problems some Live Messenger users may have if they merge their Skype and Messenger accounts (as Microsoft is advising) but still want to use Trillian. Interestingly, Cerulean's post also indicates Microsoft won't be disabling their Messenger servers until "some time next year," meaning 2014. (Thanks to @lynngr for the pointer to the post.)

The Skype team has posted some introductory how-to guidance for users about moving from Messenger to Skype. Here's more help on merging Messenger and Skype accounts.

In related news, Microsoft delivered an updated version of Skype for Windows 8 on March 29. The new version includes the ability to block contacts, as well as other video, calling and instant-messaging fixes, plus general performance enhancements, according to the Skype Garage blog. 

Topics: Unified Comms, Collaboration, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Will Ken be back complaining about all the emails he's receiveing

    stating the fact that Messenger will be phased out/integrated into Skype?

    I don't use Messenger, but I'm curious as to how Skype will turn out after the phase out.
    William Farrel
  • Can people use Skye messenger from within a browser?!

    Like they can do it now from!
    Or they will have to install the Skype app or use a 3rd party site?!
    If not that it's a big mistake, MS will lose market share for the services for sure.
  • Looks Like a Pending DISASTER!

    I've done 4 of these for customers over the last week and the only one that went well was the customer that ALSO had a pre-existing Skype account in addition to their Hotmail account. The contacts blended nicely and all went smoothly. The next 3 were disasters. I used their Hotmail account username/password and found that either none of the contacts came over or some came over but you could not use them to chat...had to delete and re-add them to get them to work. If this is an example of what's to come, I'm glad I'm not paying the support bill on this debacle! On the older XP system...Skype is such a memory pig it impacted the system performance so badly that it had to come off anyway. I moved all these customers to Google Talk (and their contact import routine actually works!) impact on system performance and everyone is happy. I think MSFT has managed to kick the dog on this one (AGAIN).
    • I Don't use messenger, either.

      @William Farrel
      Me too. I have asked this question on a few blogs and received only one answer. From Ask Leo, "Don't worry about it." In my case I went and checked and there was no Messenger Contacts in my login. But, the fact I got an answer means there may be an account. I don't really care as I would have to take some action for a Skype account to be active. I suspect the action would be for us to download Skype.

      the only way Microsoft can automatically make that happen is through the Security Update process. If I keep my settings at, "Notify me of the updates and I will chose when to download," then I can filter out the update that does that. That's what I did with the "Bing Desktop," update. I DESELECATED the check box to keep it off my computer. Then I downloaded the rest of them. After it was done I went back to the update site and selected the Bing option and then clicked on "Hide this Update". This prevents it from appearing on update offerings in the future. The next two months it hasn't been available so I suspect it will remain in Microsoft limbo for a long time.

      So, If I don't do anything to download Skype, it won't work.

      The next fun phase is the migration of Hotmail to
      In advance of that I have migrated all my email to another account I have with my ISP.
      I don't know what will happen with the part of the Microsoft Account login we use for all MSN accounts. MS hasn't addressed that feature up to now.
      • Migration to

        You keep your hotmail and live addresses and passwords; the difference is an improved product and, for those who appreciate such things, a new interfaces. One of the improvements is the availability of up to 15 alias per account.
      • migration of Hotmail to

        Microsoft did the up-grade? automatically. comes up and freezes. Now I have to use Windows Live Mail to read or send e-mail. The Up Grade? is useless to me. no functionality at all. Worse yet is no one at Microsoft knows why.
  • Disaster?

    I don't think anyone would ever seriously compare Gtalk to what Skype offers, maybe in your small circle, but from where I am at, in Afghanistan, Gtalk is horrible in relation to Skype, the video back to the states is terrible, it freezes, calls drop, none of those exist within Skype and that is a major plus in my opinion. So I think Msoft making the decision to abandon Messenger once and for all was a good call.

      @charlesdjones1: This thread isn't about comparing Gtalk to's about MSFT's forced migration routine to move millions of MSFT Messenger users (who by far primarily only use MSN Messenger as a simple instant message program and don't use the video capabilities) over to Skype (which I agree with you is certainly the best and most widely used video chat program available). So the DISASTER comment was simply referring to my experience with several different machines that were left in a mess after running MSFT's apparently flawed migration routine and then thinking of that happening to millions of users in the next few days.
      Oh...and thank you for your work in Afghanistan...and we wish you a safe return home.
    • Disaster?

      From a couple of other blogs about the migration to Skype is the requirement to download the latest version of Skype BEFORE attempting the conversion. Otherwise the conversion will fail.
      If anyone didn't see that in the instructions then that could be the cause for the crash.
      • DISASTER

        Procedure was exactly as documented...the conversion link within MSFT messenger downloads the latest version of Skype and installs it during the first part of the migration routine.
  • Hoping for quick SkypeKit update for 3rd party

    I use Trillian for all my IM needs and will lose contact with all the people on my list who use MSN until the Skype 'SkypeKit' is updated to allow 3rd party programs to communicate with the migrated Skype accounts.

    In the meantime we're all considering moving over to Google Talk or just using (wait for it) email!
  • I do not see this going well

    I really do not see this going well.

    1. Microsoft is only disabling the Windows Live Messenger Desktop App. Yet, Windows Live Messenger on iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, Windows RT,, Xbox 360, and other 3rd messaging service will still be working. Microsoft should disable all Windows Live Messenger service completely not in part.

    2. There several users who have a Skype account with lets say a Yahoo or Gmail account that they had for years. But they do not have a Microsoft account so they do not know about the merger. They will eventually get a Windows 8 PC and either use a current email as their Microsoft Account or create a new one. Then, they will download the Skype app from the Windows Store. It will automatically signs them in and they will have another Skype account. For people who uses the Skype app from the Windows Store, the app automatically logs you in. Therefore, you need to go to to merge your skype account with your microsoft account before using the Skype app from the Windows Store. What if you created Skype with a Yahoo account you had like 10 years ago and then you log into Windows 8 with your new Gmail account that you just created recently.

    3. Will new consumers who create a Microsoft Account after April 8, automatically get a Skype account or be prompted to merge?
  • Messenger

    Will the Microsoft phase-out affect Yahoo Messenger? I haven't seen that addressed so I hope I can get an answer here.
    • No

      Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger interoperability ended Dec 14, 2012.
  • Skype?

    Probably never. I am a fan of Microsoft products, but there are limits. I never used Messenger but, when I got the first e-mail, I tried it.
    I did get Skype up and running. Then I noticed: no contacts. Oops! They were all in Gmail! I closed my Skype account (there was an issue about using your Live ID or creating a user name. You should created a username, otherwise it creates a weird username from your Live ID and you can't log in with the one they create.) But I digress.

    After I closed the Skype account, I tried to import my contacts into my account and into Messenger. No luck. Then I found I could link my Google account to my account and the contacts would be there. I reinstalled Skype and that worked, but it is not an optimum solution. It appears that you have to invite contacts onto Messenger and (I think) Skype. Skype will import from Messenger, but not Google, so if you close your Google account, your contacts go away.

    Bottom line: No thanks, Skype.