Windows Live Messenger celebrates 10th birthday

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Windows Live Messenger celebrates 10th birthday

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of Microsoft's Windows Messenger tool, now known as Live Messenger.

From its launch in 1999 as a lowly consumer chat application, Live Messenger, and other instant messaging (IM) tools, have become almost as important to enterprise users as email.

The service started as a very basic communications tool, offering short messages, limited contact lists and access to AIM users.

Support for AIM did not last long as America Online sought to block Microsoft users from the service. However, a fleet of new tools and options followed this early stumble, including smiley emoticons and a web-based version.

The latest version, Windows Live Messenger 2009, was released in January, and featured some 200 bug fixes and a number of usability tweaks.

Such changes have led to the system being adopted by companies as it becomes increasingly common to communicate and work using chat technologies.

John Cunningham, director of business markets at NTL:Telewest Business, said that enterprises are using chat because it is productive and amenable.

"More than 330 million people are using Windows Live Messenger, and a lot of them are employing it as a tool to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, " he said.

This has led to companies changing their view that IM is purely a social tool, and many now see it as an effective way for staff to communicate quickly and remain in touch regardless of their location.

Vuk Trifkovic, a senior analyst at Datamonitor, said that consumer adoption and the resulting popularity had driven the use of IM applications, which had led to the creation of enterprise-specific versions of the tools.

Such tools are becoming increasingly important for ad-hoc development groups and disparate work teams, he explained.

"Messenger is the text book example of the consumerisation of enterprise applications," said Trifkovic. "It has really grown into a fully fledged business tool, and now many teams could not work without it."

Cunningham agreed. "Business models have evolved and many workers are no longer based in the office," he said. "Bringing IM together with phone calls, video calls and instant file transfer has made it much easier for staff based in different locations or working remotely to collaborate on projects and keep in touch."

Microsoft has been promoting the anniversary for a month, and has posted a number of tricks, tips and Messenger related stories on its blogs.

"If Windows Live Messenger was a country, it would be the third largest in the world (behind China and India, and before the US) and almost 10 times the size of Canada," reads one of the stories.

Another concerned a worker who had made a proposal of marriage using the medium. And, in case readers were wondering, she said 'yes'.

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