09/01/2013 12:49 | By Matt Farrington Smith, editor, MSN Tech

Microsoft to close Windows Live Messenger on 15 March

The beloved instant messaging system will go offline for good in March

Messenger will close on 15 March 2013 (© MSN)

Microsoft has announced plans to shut down its Messenger service (formerly Windows Live Messenger/MSN Messenger) and move users to Skype from 15 March 2013.

The sad news came in the form of an official email from Microsoft.

It is believed that Messenger users residing in mainland China will be unaffected by this closure.

Messenger is dead. Long live Messenger

From March 15 Messenger users will be unable to sign into Messenger and use the service. From this date Microsoft encourage you to download Skype where you'll still be able to exchange instant-messages and have chats with your Messenger friends. Your existing Windows Live ID login will also still work.
We'll be issuing more information to help you make the change in due course. In the meantime you can download Skype (for free) from here http://tech.uk.msn.com/microsoft/skype/

Windows Live Messenger icon (© Microsoft)

A history lesson

To the keen observer the death of Messenger has been a long time coming. Microsoft's costly acquisition of Skype (a cool $8.5 billion) during October 2011, set the wheels in motion. At the time we all wondered whether Skype's communication technology would perhaps be absorbed into future releases of Messenger - after all, it made sense.

A year later and shortly before the release of Windows 8, Microsoft announced it would be renaming its useful suite of free online services and software. Windows Live staples such as Hotmail, SkyDrive, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker and Messenger were all affected by this change.

Not long after that (and in a surprise move) Microsoft ditched the Hotmail brand, instead rebranding it Outlook.

From this point on it was clear that anything could happen. Microsoft still held onto Skype and tech plaudits deliberated how the new service could possibly fit into these increasingly-streamlined plans. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long for the software giant to show its hand - a recent email sent to some hundred million Messenger users has announced ambitions to finally retire the much-lauded Messenger instant-messaging service in favour of Skype.

To find out more about Skype visit our dedicated Skype download page on MSN Tech

A Messenger chat window (© MSN)

RIP Messenger

Below you can find the full text from Microsoft's official email:

"On 15th March 2013 we are retiring the existing Messenger service globally (except for mainland China where Messenger will continue to be available) and bringing the great features of Messenger and Skype together. Update to Skype and sign in using a Microsoft Account (same as your Messenger ID) and all your Messenger contacts will be at your fingertips. You’ll be able to instant message and video chat with them just like before, and also discover new ways of staying in touch with Skype on your mobile and tablet.

So, what’s happening between now and 15th March?

Messenger will continue to work as you know it today. If you are signed in with Messenger on your desktop** you will see a banner notification to upgrade. When you click on the banner, an installer window will open with the request to upgrade. This will take you through our installer flow to install Skype and automatically uninstall Messenger.

So, what’s happening after 15th March?

Messenger users on desktops** will not be able to sign in and will only be able to upgrade to Skype. If you attempt to sign in, a notification will appear, and if you continue, you will be taken through our installer flow to install Skype and automatically uninstall Messenger at the same time.

Can I update to Skype on my mobile?

Yes! Skype is available on iPhone, Android and soon on Windows Phone 8. We encourage you to download the latest Skype app on your mobile and then uninstall Messenger. You will be able to sign in to Skype on your iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 8 mobile apps with your Microsoft Account over the next few weeks. If you use another phone with Messenger on it, it will continue to work for a while."

* To get group video chat, you’ll need a Skype Premium subscription.
 ** Newer versions of Messenger will be able to receive the optional upgrade notifications. Older versions will not receive the notifications and you will have to download Skype manually.

Skype for Windows (© MSN)

Getting to know Skype

Change is as good as a rest, so you shouldn't see the closure of Messenger and the adoption of Skype as a negative.

It's safe to say that Skype offers the same functionality as Messenger ever did (plus a load more besides). So you'll still be able to send instant messages, have group chats, make video calls and compose texts using your existing Windows Live ID (Messenger login).

Download Skype today
Skype for Windows tips and tricks
See what people are saying about Messenger on Facebook

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