Monthly Archives: April 2010

Features cut from the new Windows Live Messenger 2010

Yesterday, we got the first official preview videos of the Wave 4 Messenger client.  The first video is a quick, amusing walkthrough of some of the new features, so take a look if you haven’t seen it yet.  The second was part of Ballmer’s presentation in Sao Paolo; the Messenger demo starts at ~23:05.

The great thing about video is that you can look through the menus as they use the product.  Note that I’m just making educated guesses at this point, but I’d be willing to bet most of the functionality I mention here has been given the snip.

1.  Webcam
Messenger has long since had two real-time video functions, Webcam and Video Call, and it appears Webcam no longer exists unless it has been delegated into the hidden menu (unlikely). 

For those unfamiliar, Webcam has its own set of functionality that Video Call does not have, including the ability to show your webcam to multiple people which allowed for multi-person video sharing, something popular Skype doesn’t even have (although if you wanted multi-person audio, you’d still have to use another product).  One of the great uses of Webcam is to quickly show something to another person without forcing them to transmit their own audio/video, thereby saving time, bandwidth costs, and having to check that your hair is still in place. 

Both Webcam and Video Call have had their own individual issues, but I really hope the issues surrounding Video Call, VPNs, and multiple network adapters has been addressed.  In these scenarios, Video Call refuses to work and you won’t even get a notification of any attempts to video call you.

Earlier this year I did a small experiment involving setting up an automated chat bot with webcam support on Messenger and letting it lose on a random public web chat to talk to people.  Of 108 requests, all were webcam requests except for two users who attempted a video call.  As it’s unlikely that people will immediately upgrade, I do hope backwards compatibility has or will be  implemented for that.

2.  Drawing/digital ink
I always rather liked the drawing function in Messenger, as you can do make a quick diagram to prove a point, especially if you’re using a tablet or touch-screen which has become increasingly more mainstream.  Although it was plagued by a major issue in past versions where it would stop you from sending messages, in Messenger 2008 it works quite well and reliably.  What’s even better is that it’s been ported to multiple platforms and third-party software, such as the Nintendo DS or Trillian and the necessary tablet support has been built-in to Windows for quite awhile.

However it seems to be missing from the interface in all videos and screenshots of 2010, thus I can only summarize that it’s been cut out of the product.  Unlike Webcam, which at least still has its core functionality retained in Video Call, there is no replacement for Drawing so you’re left to draw in an image editor and paste them over.  It’s a real shame considering Messenger has had this functionality back to the days of Windows Messenger/MSN Messenger with Netmeeting’s Whiteboard.

3.  Backgrounds
I’ve scoured through what content is available, and although there is a minute possibility that backgrounds are still there, I’m going to presume that they’ve also been removed.  As of Messenger 2008, backgrounds seemed to had just been barely left in as they didn’t even fill the entire window, customizations didn’t carry over from the previous version and background sharing with contacts had disappeared.  Scenes are the replacement to backgrounds it seems, and for the most part is a reasonable compromise.

Message History?
I’m going to guess it’s still there, although in 2008 it has a prominent position at the of the top of the conversation window which has disappeared.  We’ll have to wait for more information to be sure, but I suspect if it’s not gone, it will be in the version after 2010 (or replaced with something else).

File transfer?
It’s been delegated under the Share menu as shown here:

As actual builds of the release demoed aren’t yet available externally, some of these features may reappear.  However, the possibility of this happening is extremely low as it’s rare for feature’s to make a come back.  Although there’s a whole list of new features that have been added, I’m a bit saddened that already working unique functionality to Messenger seems to have presumably been tossed aside. 

The real problem with removing features in Messenger is as people upgrade (or are forced to upgrade), the feature’s stop working as their version no longer supports it – even though you’ve continued to stay on the existing version.  So given time, the feature is simply gone, regardless if your client supports it or not.

More on other interesting things in the video in the coming days.