Is Windows Live Messenger Your Friend?

Sean Carver is a rock star. No, seriously – he’s one of the guys at Microsoft who has always listened to my feedback. Not sure he’s always able to push my suggestions through the pipeline, but he really does listen (and I wish I could say that about more people I kenw). Microsoft just launched v8 of their Messenger product. It’s good, and I’d recommend it over previous versions of Microsoft’s IM client, but there are a few things that are holding it back from being great:

  1. Yay: Cleaner, more efficient UI. I’m still not going to switch from Trillian 2.0, but I’m not immediately turned off by Windows Live Messenger’s interface. It’s still a bit laden with oversights, but not so many that it’s painful to use.
  2. Boo: Advertisement overkill. Seriously, can’t I just pay to remove all ads from all Windows Live / MSN services? That, to me, would be worth $100 a year. Enough with the upsells, man – some of us just want to connect with friends and co-workers.
  3. Yay: Yahoo! IM interoperability is coming. While this is a huge step in the right direction, I think more people would opt for the Yahoo! IM experience – which is far less annoying and contains fewer (if any) ads.
  4. Boo: I don’t use MSN Spaces, I don’t use Windows Media Player, I don’t use Windows Live Mail, I don’t use Windows Live Search – but that’s all I can get to through Windows Live Messenger (go figure).
  5. Yay: You can easily change the color of the window. Sounds like a minor feature, but try a few different colors on for size. It’s kinda nice!
  6. Boo: Tabs still aren’t customizable at ALL – it’s either all or nothing. The “love” tab shouldn’t show me a dating site, it should show me places where I can order flowers for Ponzi. That, and the Xbox tab doesn’t seem to be pulling in my Friends list? That, and the Games tab is throwing back a JavaScript error. That, and the scroll wheel won’t let you scroll up and down through the tabs list. That, and the eBay tab doesn’t load my personal page. That, and I think Messengers Tabs are still half-baked and 90% useless.
  7. Yay: You can import favorites from your account. Of course, I don’t use because they’re still blocking – but it shows that Microsoft is willing to think outside their own universe (if only for importing).
  8. Boo: You can’t control conversation fonts. I hate when people use 84pt Courier New to send messages to me. They think it’s wonderful – I don’t. And now, apparently, there’s no way of turning that off? Gah. Big mistake.

There, at least my impressions weren’t completely negative – but as I mentioned before, I’ll be sticking with Trillian 2.0 for the time being (going on record as stating that Trillian 3.0 is a performance dog). Windows Live Messenger 8.0 is certainly an improvement over 7.5. No instant messaging client is perfect, but if I were Microsoft, I’d start paying attention to Google. They hired the GAIM guy for Google Talk, ya know? No matter, I’m glad that Sean Carver’s team got this one out the door – but I want them to invite me into their office to make 8.5 a little more power-user friendly.

27 thoughts on “Is Windows Live Messenger Your Friend?”

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  4. – Do video and audio work reliably. Until they do, I’ll use Skype.
    – Is there SMS support?, audio to PSTN? Until there is, I’ll use Skype.
    – Nice to see they now let you send an IM to somebody who’s offline. Like Skype.
    – The Tools, Billing menu option is so lame. Even more so when it’s a duplicate of Actions, Get more.
    – Why is it so hard to find out details about the API? Unlike Skype.
    – Have they still got that lame 150 limit on contacts? Unlike Skype.
    – Why don’t they have an official method of showing live presence on the web? Why is it so hard to include a web link that says “MSN Me”. Like Skype.

    Which brings me back to Skype (grin). They seem to be the only IM provider that understands ship early, ship often. I’ve given up holding my breath for MSN-Yahoo interop and Google-Aol-iChat-Gaim-Trillian support for Libjingle. The only reason I still have MSN on my desktop is because I have a few key contacts who are on networks that ban Skype.

  5. You’re using Trillian 2.0? Not 3.1? BTW they have version 4 in beta right now.

    I’ve always liked Trillian’s clean interface. GAIM is all over the place with its UI and Messenger is the worst. All those tabs, colors, all over the place. And the ads! Like you I’d pay to not have ads. Then again, I wouldn’t have to pay if I used Trillian Basic. I like GTalk for its simplicity in the UI. Plus having it built in to GMail is sweet.

  6. Julian Bond: The latest release should solve a bunch of the issues you’re reporting (although I might be a bit biased):

    – Do video and audio work reliably.
    There were a bunch of improvements to it in the latest version, so it should.
    – Is there SMS support?, audio to PSTN?
    SMS support has been in since version 7.0. Audio->PSTN was added in the latest version.
    – Nice to see they now let you send an IM to somebody who’s offline. Like Skype.
    – The Tools, Billing menu option is so lame. Even more so when it’s a duplicate of Actions, Get more.
    Yeah, that is kind of weird.
    – Why is it so hard to find out details about the API? Unlike Skype. has links to a forum and both of the released SDKs (Add-Ins and Activities) and information about Bots (and a contest for making them).
    – Have they still got that lame 150 limit on contacts? Unlike Skype.
    The limit was raised to 600 sometime last year.
    – Why don’t they have an official method of showing live presence on the web? Why is it so hard to include a web link that says “MSN Meâ€Â?. Like Skype.
    There isn’t a method to show presence :(, but there is an ability to include “MSN Me” links. I couldn’t find the official post, but searching came up with the following information:

  7. One of the biggest pet peeves with Windows Live Messenger is that it does not respect the default web browser in Windows for opening Windows Live Mail (I set mine to Firefox).

    This is ridiculous, considering that Windows Live Mail now supports Firefox

  8. Lord Pi. Thanks for the useful info. Which I’ll turn into a gripe 😉
    Developers are critical to lock in and growth. It’s a shame some of that stuff is so hard to find. And actually this applies all the way through. The information about what Messenger does and doesn’t do seems to be scattered all over the place. With the lanch of the Live brand, MS could usefully bring it all back together into one consistent web site.

    Many moons ago in V4.7, Messenger used to have an open SIP gateway. There were partners (like BT) but you could also put in a 3rd party service like FWD. I was a bit put off to discover that their external voice links were now via Verizon.

  9. I just read your blog post about Windows Live Messenger and couldn’t agree more.

    All the ads, non-reconfigurability, and crap like that are what keep me using gaim, Trillian, or Adium – I think of chat as a simple method of reaching out to people. I want it to be as configurable and tweakable as possible so I can make my experience be all about a box of text with an input bar at the bottom. Nothing else – no “winks”, “nudges” or fucking giant send buttons that are large enough to hit from across the room with my tablets digitizer pen like a dart…

    Seriously Microsoft – look at Adium and base your chat on that.

  10. I agree with pretty much every point in this post. Most importantly: Why can’t we just pay for it to get rid of the ads?!

    What I like is that it doesn’t feel like a teenage girls bedroom anymore. It is a lot more “professional” from an aesthetic sense, at default.

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  12. Couldn’t agree more. Advertisements are a necesary evil, and keeps messenger free, but those flash ads with sound are the most annoying thing ever. You are working , watching movies or whatever and suddenly an AD sound starts playing . Once I was listening music and turned the volumen down from the application rather than the master volumen, when the messenger ad starts playing, it almost kills my speakers and made me jump out from my chair lol, that was scary.

  13. i hate windows live messenger so much damnnit,, im going to stick with 7.5 for probably years to come…

  14. I just bought a web cam for me and my son. He is in the military. Windows Live Messenger or Yahoo Messenger secure or pirvate? I don’t want people peeping?

  15. my hotmail doesn’t load at all! i accidently clicked ‘sign me up to windows live’ or something, now my account refuses to load :@ !

  16. they made me change to this windows live messenger and i think that is totally unfair! i don’t like being forced to switch not one bit!

  17. they forced me to upgrade from 7.5 and now it sodding doesn’t work. i am forced to use this by idiotic friends who abandoned ICQ for this dead messenger.

    Why would anyone even consider PAYING for an ad-free version of this client when its so awful?

    There are good IM clients that are free and ad-free at that.

  18. I’d like to remove Windows Messenger from my Windows XP programme. Can you tell me a simple way of doing this? Thanks!

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