When is Messenger really shutting down?

Messenger Shutting Down?In the past few weeks you most likely read the headlines in the popular press, “MSN Messenger to end after 15 years”, “MSN Messenger Turned Off Forever!”, “Microsoft Is Officially Killing MSN Messenger Once and For All”, and similar captions of the same premise. Reading through these articles, you’ll find that Microsoft has sent out messages to the current Chinese users of Messenger, informing them that after October 31st they will need to use Skype to sign in, plus a bonus $2 Skype coupon for their trouble. The writers then jump to the conclusion that there will be no Messenger after that time, as it seems none of them have noticed that you can still use Messenger and that they’ve just been using Messenger in Skype.

With no other evidence to the contrary, Microsoft is most likely doing the same in China as it did for the rest of the world, force-upgrading its users to use Skype as their Messenger client instead of Windows Live Messenger.

Here are some facts about the situation:

  1. Messenger contacts (as of yet) did not transfer to Skype contacts. When you link your Skype username to a Microsoft account, Skype (or also Outlook.com) will sign you into both Skype and Messenger services. Despite the accounts being linked up, you can still sign into your Skype username separately or sign into your Messenger account separately using another Messenger client.
  2. Recently Microsoft started blocking users from signing into older versions of Skype. This seems to be primarily to push people into using the newer versions of Skype which support MSNP24 (Microsoft Notification Protocol version 24). To compare, Windows Live Messenger 2011/2012 uses MSNP21, so they are in fact transitioing from Skype’s native protocol to the Messenger protocol for all Skype communication. You can view the MSNP server and protocol information in Skype by opening up any Skype window and typing /dumpmsnp.
  3. The Messaging app included in Windows 8.0 (removed in 8.1) signs into the .NET Messenger service.  As Windows 8.0 will remain supported until January 12, 2016, this client within 8.0 should continue to work within this supported time frame. This version of Messenger uses MSNP22.
  4. Although unsupported officially, third-party clients, Windows Messenger 4.7 above and “revived” clients still continue to work nearly a year and a half after the official shutdown date. These clients do not connect to Chinese servers or pretend to be in China.
  5. The dates of these forced-upgrades have been incorrect so far. Initially Messenger was to “shut down” on March 15th, 2013, and then was moved to April 8th. However, the forced compulsory Skype didn’t truly begin on the servers until April 23rd.  Then more recently was the issue of “MSP” (not MSNP) first declared to be discontinued first in March of this year, then May, and then the reference was removed from the Microsoft website all together.

The answer
I have no idea when non-Skype Messenger clients will no longer be able to sign in.

Regardless of the facts above, Microsoft could still prevent non-Skype Messenger clients (and their subsequent versions of the protocol) from signing in at any time. I would personally implore them not to do so, as they only face to alienate more users to other services, particularly with their dwindling usage and increased competition. Additionally, once their move to the MSNP24 protocol on Skype is fully complete, they could open and encourage third-parties to write for that new protocol.

Final note

After reading through the most recent Messenger headlines, I think it’s worth a reminder that MSN Messenger was replaced by Windows Live Messenger in 2006. Everyone knows that Messenger is colloquially known as “MSN”, which can correctly refer to the protocol (MSNP) being used, but in reality the actual versions of software called MSN Messenger were discontinued and replaced in the years following the name change, particularly as older versions of the protocol were retired and security issues were found.

Windows Live Messenger 2009 signed in on September 11th, 2014

Windows Live Messenger 2009 signed in on September 11th, 2014

Solving error 800488fe once again

In July of last year, a number of users found they couldn’t sign into Messenger and were receiving error code 800488fe. This appears to have started again today and additionally, you might have gotten an “Unusual sign-in activity” message like the following:

Unusual Sign-in

This would seem suspicious normally, but the IP address shown is actually the users real IP, so it seems to be a false positive and can be dismissed.  You can always check your account activity to verify this.

I’ve received this message myself in the last few hours on an account I only use for e-mail and never Messenger – so it seems Microsoft is having trouble with their security detection.

Like before, to solve the problem, just sign into Outlook.com with your Messenger Microsoft account (which may or may not require you do extra account verification) and then you should be able to sign into Messenger again.

Small possibility of Messenger shutdown this weekend (UPDATE: didn’t happen)

UPDATE (June 4, 2014): Messenger (MSNP) is still available.  It seems whatever MSP truly is, it didn’t affect Messenger or never was shut down in the first place.


own-messenger-smiley-crossed-fingersI don’t think it will happen personally, but there is a small chance that some time this weekend (or Monday) may be the end of the ability to sign in to the Messenger servers.

The March date
The date in March was originally based from a reference on the Windows Live Developers site (no longer available, old archive.org version) which stated that “implementations that use MSP (Mobile Service Proxy) will continue to work until March 2014″.  After this date passed, the page was changed to show May 31st as the date.

So it’s May 31st?
The confusion with this statement lies in the claim that the Mobile Service Proxy will be the component that no longer works after May 31st.  At the time this information was presented, the various media outlets automatically assumed this is what Messenger uses, but Messenger uses MSNP (Mobile Service Notification Protocol), not MSP.

What is MSP/Mobile Service Proxy anyway?
I really do not know.  Despite a decade of technical work on Messenger, I had never heard of the Mobile Service Proxy or MSP mentioned until it showed up on that page.  My guess is that it could be part of the Messenger web API I’m not familiar with, Messenger connectivity on mobile networks (via SMS), or it could be that the protocol got renamed and no one bothered to inform anyone.  Since this term first appeared, I’ve searched periodically for more information and the only reference I ever found was someone else asking the same question on the Windows Live dev forums.  The only answer given was, “MSNP in general is not supported by Microsoft for non-Microsoft applications.

What about April?
There was some discussion that since Windows Messenger was part of Windows XP that the XP end-of-support date of April 8th would be the day the servers were taken down.  This of course did not happen and the Messaging app in Windows 8.0 (not 8.1) contains the standard Messenger implementation using MSNP.  Windows 8.0 is supported until January 12, 2016.

Will it shut down?
We’ve recently seen features like e-mail notifications and offline messaging disappear from Messenger, as well as changes to Outlook.com messaging, and the rare message originally directed to Skype pop-up on Messenger randomly.  Clearly changes are being made but how they will affect the older Messenger clients long-term is not known.

Going forward
One great thing about the March and May dates was that they gave a definitive time we knew the Messenger service would be operating.  Past this weekend we will be entering more uncertainty.

I’ve set up a new Messenger Status page to reflect the current condition of Messenger service and its features so everyone can check what is and what isn’t working.

Offline messaging broken

Offline messages in Messenger have always been stored on Hotmail (now Outlook.com), and with the e-mail count and notifications for Outlook.com in Messenger being removed recently, it was no surprise when the reports that offline messaging was no longer working.  I can sadly confirm that to be the case.

However, it’s more complicated than simply being gone.  Your offline messages can be triggered to be sent to you in Messenger… by using Skype.

If you want to try this yourself, link your Messenger Microsoft account to a Skype ID.  Then with Messenger signed in already, log into Skype using your normal Skype username (you could use your Microsoft account as well, but you don’t have to).  As soon as Skype logs in, your offline message will magically appear in Messenger.  Note this requires Messenger 2012, it does not seem to work on 2009.

Additionally, you can also see your offline messages by using Outlook.com’s web messaging feature by signing in with your Microsoft account (note that it does not need to be a Live/Hotmail address to work).

 

 

 

 

E-mail message count and notifications broken (update: probably gone for good)

In the Email Toastlast week I had two people inform me that their Hotmail Outlook.com e-mail count was wrong in Messenger.  This wasn’t a new situation that I’ve heard as over my 10 years of supporting Messenger this came up many times (including in my own account) and the issue simply resolved itself after a brief period.  I double checked my own account and the count and subsequent mail notifications and they were working for me.

But today I’ve heard from many more people that this feature has been failing.  After checking my own personal and test accounts, it’s now fully broken for me also.

From a technical perspective, the message count and notifications are completely handled by the server which then just notifies Messenger.  Unfortunately this means there’s nothing that can be done to “fix” the problem as the server isn’t sending any mail notifications to the Messenger clients.

One can only hope this is a temporary problem and not due to a roll-out of a new version of Outlook.com that’s removed the feature completely.

UPDATE (April 16, 2014)
The e-mail notification feature has been fundamental to Messenger since it’s very inception.  In fact Microsoft has exploited this feature for a long time — it’s been used as the basis for Hotmail mail checking in Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail, Hotmail and Outlook.com.  I was thinking more about this today and wondered that with the feature gone, if Outlook.com had a new way of handling mail notifications.

So, I took two accounts and tested them.  One account is a standard Hotmail account with Messenger contacts and one is the same but linked to a Skype account.  The normal Hotmail account signed into the web-based Messenger client fine as normal, but was not able to receive any new e-mails until I manually pressed the refresh button.  However, the account that’s been linked to Skype was able to receive mail notifications and immediately refreshed.  I can only summarize e-mail notifications have been moved over to Skype, although they don’t yet appear in the current versions of the software.

Just to be clear, linking your Microsoft account to a Skype account will not magically restore your e-mail notifications in Messenger.  (Doing so will restore automatic receiving of mail while in Outlook.com however.)  What it does mean is that some time in the future, the Skype desktop application will be able to notify you to new e-mail and that the notification feature has probably been removed for good in Messenger.

I would recommend you use the freeware tool Howard::Outlook.com/Hotmail email notifier as a replacement.  Although the default is every 5 minutes, you can set the check time to every 30 seconds, which is the minimum on any of the protocols without Exchange Activesync (supported on phones, Windows 8 Mail and Outlook 2013).

UPDATE (May 1st, 2014)
In the prior update, I mentioned how you couldn’t receive new e-mails on the Outlook.com site without Skype linked to your Microsoft account.  It seems they have fixed that problem as accounts that aren’t linked to Skype can now see messages arriving once again.  However, the Messenger e-mail notifications are still missing, giving further evidence that they won’t be back.

Christmas comes early! Microsoft updates Windows 8.1 for Messenger 2011/2012 support

Ho-Ho-Ho--Santa-on-Windows-Live-Messenger-2This month’s Update Tuesday brought an early Christmas gift to those who want to use Messenger 2011 or 2012 on Windows 8.1.

Prior to this update being available, when you tried to sign in, you would receive error code 80090004.  After the fix is installed, you will be able to sign in as normal.

The update is contained in the 8.1 December’s rollup update (KB2903939), which contains 18 fixes including KB2906900 (Error “0x80090004 (NTE_BAD_LEN)” occurs when you try to sign in to Windows Live Messenger).

You can either download the update from Windows Update in Windows, or at the Download Center (32-bit, 64-bit), a reboot will be  required to use Messenger again.

Although I quickly managed to write some code to automatically check, download and install the update on machines that need it, it will be a few days before I think it’s ready.  In the meantime, I have withdrawn the version of Messenger Reviver which blocked Messenger 2011/2012 installations on 8.1 and you will just need to manually update Windows 8.1 if Windows isn’t updated automatically.

A special thanks to user Chooky who was the first to notice the update!

 

Microsoft to remove server-side instant messaging history and conversations

I was rather pleased when I discovered that Outlook.com had a server-side message history last August.  It’s quite handy at times to have conversations stored elsewhere without having to deal with Remote Desktop, add-ons and other trickery to do the same thing.

But today, I received an email from the Outlook.com Team with the following information:

We’re contacting you because we are making a change to the messaging history feature in Outlook.com.

Whenever you chat using Outlook.com whether it’s through Facebook, Google Talk, or Messenger, a copy of your chat is saved in the Messaging history folder. As part of adding Skype to Outlook.com, the Messaging history folder will be removed sometime this fall.

So there’s no actual cut-off date, just “sometime this fall” and my saved conversations will just disappear?

If you want to keep a record of your chats, you’ll need to move them to another folder. To move your message history:

1. In Outlook.com, right-click Folders, and then click Add a new folder.

2. Enter a name for the folder and press the Enter key.

3. Click Messaging history, and then click the check box at the very top of your message list.

4. Click Select everything.

5. Right-click any message and then click Move.

6. Select the folder you want to move your messages to, and then click Move.

I completed this process and it took nearly 10 clicks, plus some typing.  This doesn’t sound like a lot, but why do I have to do this manually?  At the very least, why couldn’t it be as simple as one button to ‘Save your data’? And Since there is no actual date, I’ll have to continue to do this process periodically until it disappears as not to lose anything from now on.

After the Messaging history folder is removed, a history of your Skype, Google Talk, and Facebook chat sessions can be found in the Messaging pane.

After the Messaging history folder is removed, the chat sessions will be found in the messaging pane?  Are they referring to the ones I just moved to a folder of my own choosing?  Does this mean they’ll be in both locations?  It’s really not clear.

messagehistoryFor me, this is just another example of how Microsoft continues to fail their customers.  According to news reports, Skype support in Outlook.com has been rolling out in preview form for four months and was was first talked about nearly a year ago.  Was this not an issue before in their rollout?  I understand why they might want to discontinue the feature since Messenger is officially on its way out, but why remove the existing conversations?  And finally, do they truly believe my conversations have no value to me that I wouldn’t want them archived automatically?

Messenger status and error 800488fe

Since Monday of this week the Messenger service has been experiencing outages with signing in.  If you’re using Windows Live Messenger after using Reviver and you encounter this problem, you’ll see error 800488fe during the sign in process.  Third-party clients like Pidgin (libpurple), bitlbee and others have also been experiencing these problems and will have similar cryptic error messages.

I have seen a number of people attempt to explain the outage with explanations of the problem only affecting custom domains, age of account, or your current location but none of these have proven to be consistent and seem to be inaccurate.

Fixing the error
Although the error is a server issue, some people have reported that their account started working again after signing in and out of Outlook.com (Hotmail), so that may be worth trying.  However in all accounts that I personally have been affected with, I simply waited for a while and trying again later has worked every single time.

Hopefully these server issues will be resolved soon.

Use Messenger Reviver 2 to bring back Messenger and beat Skype

Messenger Reviver 2

Download Messenger Reviver 2

E-mail message count and notifications broken
As of April 15, 2014, it seems the e-mail message count and mail notifications have been broken globally.  This is a server problem and cannot be fixed by Reviver.  It is unknown at this time if the problem will be fixed.  For more information, see the E-mail message count and notifications broken post.

How to use Messenger on Windows 8.1
The out-of-box installation of Windows 8.1 breaks both Windows Live Messenger 2011 and 2012 by modifying how the encryption component of Windows works.  If you see this problem, you will receive a 80090004 error when you sign in.  This issue was fixed in Windows Update KB2903939, which will need to be installed to use Messenger 2011/2012 on Windows 8.1.  An upcoming version of Reviver will automatically check and install this update for you.

Messenger Reviver 2 automatically installs, repairs and/or modifies Windows Live Messenger 2012, 2011, 2009, and 2008 as well as Windows Messenger to continue signing in despite being blocked by Microsoft.

Reviver 2 supports modifying all language versions and can automatically install either 2009 or 2011/2012 versions in 47 different languages.

You will receive one of the following messages if you’re being forced to upgrade to Skype:
A newer version is available.  You must install the newer version in order to continue.  Would you like to do this now?
A newer version has been downloaded and is available.  You must install this newer version in order to continue.  Would you like to do this now?

Update Forced

To bypass the forced upgrade, download my Messenger Reviver 2 utility and run the application.  As this requires changes to Messenger you may receive a message asking you to allow Reviver to make changes to your computer.

Reviver will automatically attempt to detect if Messenger is still installed, which versions are eligible for modification and if you need to run a repair or new installation to bring Messenger back (if Skype has removed it).

Download Messenger Reviver 2

Also available: zipped version if you’re being blocked by security software

Requirements
Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 Technical Preview
.NET Framework 2.0 or higher (included with Windows Vista or newer), .NET 3.5 or 4.0 recommended

Messenger Reviver 2

To revive Messenger, click Start and the process will automatically modify Messenger and restart it.

If Windows Live Essentials is not installed, you will presented with options to either install Messenger 2009 or 2012 in the language of your choosing.  Reviver will attempt to guess which language you prefer based on your prior Windows and Essentials language settings.

Additionally if Essentials is still installed, but Skype has removed it, you will be offered to just repair your Essentials install.

revivernewinstall Reviver Repair

Advanced
Advanced options If you wish to do a manual re-install or repair, you can select these options by clicking the Advanced button and choosing the function you would like.

Easter Eggs
As Messenger Reviver 2 will probably be my last exclusive Messenger project, I have added a few small Easter eggs into the application for fun.

Animated MSN butterfly
MSN Butterfly When you open Reviver, you’ll find an animated MSN butterfly in the main window.  This is the original butterfly that flew around from MSN Messenger 5.0.  Based on highly advanced software engineering, the butterfly will fly around, flaps its wings or just sit quietly.  If you click the butterfly when it’s not busy, it will react accordingly.

Messenger spinner
signinani If you click the About button, you’ll find the original Messenger signing in spinning animation in the top-left hand corner.


The MSN sound
Back in 1996, MSN had a sound they used for their advertising which accompanied the various letters of M-S-N.  I was fairly fond of it, and I’ve included it in Reviver.  Single-click the above mentioned spinner to initiate the sound and watch the letters light up.

There’s one more small addition, but I’ll let you find that one yourself :)

If you need help…
Please leave a comment here, visit the live chat, the forum, or contact me directly.
Using Windows 8.1?  For the time being, you will need to make sure your Windows installation is up-to-date and that KB2903939 is installed.  See the top notice.

Messenger server problems
Occasionally the Messenger servers have been experiencing problems signing in.  You may need to sign in at www.outlook.com and then try again.  It may also take multiple tries to sign in.  (This also affects you if you’re using Skype.)  This should be resolved now as the issue hasn’t been seen recently.

Version history

Apr 16 2014 2.2.5.0
  • Support for new Messenger 2012 16.4.3528.0331
Feb 19 2014 2.2.4.0
  • Support for new Messenger 2012 16.4.3522.0110
Sept 09 2013 2.2.3.0
  • Messenger 2011/2012 has been blocked from being installed on Windows 8.1 due to a compatibility problem with Windows 8.1 I’ve yet been able to fix.
    (This version has been withdrawn as Microsoft has fixed the error in update KB2903939)
May 13 2013 2.2.2.0
  • Support for new Messenger 2012 16.4.3508.0205
May 07 2013 2.2.1.0
  • Changes to the detection of Messenger to allow weird modified Program
    Files folder configurations on 64-bit Windows
  • Fixed a rare crash that would happen on new Messenger installs on XP
May 04 2013 2.2.0.0
  • Now scans all running applications for Messenger file in use
  • Also supports patching the file and rebooting for the change to take effect
  • Added some code to avoid broken Windows Installers
Apr 25 2013 2.1.0.0
  • Added support for Windows Live Messenger 2008 (8.5.1302.1018)
  • More aggressive in shutting down services that might hold on to the file, hopefully should resolve some of the “waiting” issues
Apr 25 2013 2.0.1.0
  • Changed how XP clients work as Reviver was trying to patch Windows Messenger and required advanced settings to install Live Messenger again, it should now be automatic on XP
Apr 24 2013 2.0.0.1
  • Switching the self-extractor to Microsoft’s iexpress to solve some issues, this should prevent the application from not exiting when it’s done its work and hopefully better with security software
Apr 23 2013 2.0.0.0
  • First release of Messenger Reviver 2

End of week one: Messenger still not blocked

I will surviveDespite Microsoft’s constant urging over the past few months that Messenger would not be accessible after April 8th, the desktop clients continue to work one week later.

Of course the honest truth is that Microsoft has indicated that the “retirement” would begin April 8th for “English-speaking countries” and should finish by April 30th with Brazilian Portuguese users being last.

So, let’s put this information to the test to see how they’re doing.  As I’ve been supporting Messenger for 12 years, somewhere down the line I started creating accounts with the various locales so I could understand the different country-specific features I was being asked about.  Therefore I already have most of the accounts already created and luckily been in existence for a quite a few years.  Additionally, (thanks to some friends) I also have the opportunity to test my accounts from several of the different countries so they can be tested from a local IP.  For the purposes of this experiment, I will use Windows Live Messenger 2012 (16.4.3505.0912) on Windows 7 SP1 64-bit.

UPDATE (April 23, 2013): Microsoft suddenly blocked all the accounts at once.  I guess they didn’t bother with their announced rolled out server changes.  To bypass the block and continue to use Messenger, use my Messenger Reviver 2 tool.
UPDATE (April 24, 2013): Spoke too soon, apparently some accounts are still active, just not any of mine.  However, they’re all around the world and not limited to a specific country.  This is the typical way they’ve done forced updates by not doing all servers at once.
UPDATE (April 25, 2013): Apparently they’ve overloaded Skype with Messenger logins…

Country registered Old/New account Messenger accessible from Canadian IP Messenger accessible from local country’s IP
Australia Old Yes N/A
Brazil New Yes N/A
Canada Old Yes Yes
France Old Yes N/A
Netherlands Old Yes N/A
United Kingdom Old Yes Yes
United States Old Yes Yes

Based on this test data and that none of my contacts elsewhere in the world (in countries not tested above) have experienced a block,  I conclude that Microsoft has not even begun the process.  Considering the original date of this “retirement” was March 14th, it seems that the date is being delayed even further.

If you believe your account is being forced to upgrade to Skype:

Please come over to the live chat, leave a comment here, or contact me personally.

Messenger love still great

A friend of mine discovered the following on Friday.  It sure seems there’s plenty of Messenger love around!

Messenger car

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