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.)
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.