Category Archives: News

Most third-party Messenger clients have gone offline temporarily

YzK3IFf[1]If you have been using BitlBee, Pidgin (or anything using its library, libpurple), Trillian or some other third-party instant messaging client that supports the msn protocol, you may have noticed over the past few hours that either your contact list is no longer accessible or you cannot sign in.

In BitlBee, you’ll see:
<root> msn – Logging in: Authenticated, getting buddy list
<root> msn – Login error: Connection timeout

In Pidgin, you’ll see it attempt to log in but get stuck at “Available – Connecting…”.  In Trillian, your contact list will just not appear.

The problem seems to stem from a change on Microsoft’s end about which application IDs are allowed to retrieve contact lists.  The ID used in the above clients is the applicationId (CFE80F9D-180F-4399-82AB-413F33A1FA11) from Windows Live Messenger 2008 (8.5).  When the client attempts to get the contact list, the server will reply with: Invalid Application Header Application ID is either not defined in database or blocked from access.

The Fix
The 2012 application ID key still works as do clients revived using Messenger Reviver.  If you’re wanting to re-compile any of these applications with source code, just edit the code to change the above ID to the 2012 one, 484AAC02-7F59-41B7-9601-772045DCC569.  Additionally, if you’re familiar with running python, you can use this python script to automatically patch your client (thanks dx for creating this).

For Pidgin users, you might consider using the msn-pecan protocol plugin, then setting up a new account as the WLM protocol in Pidgin.  This has several benefits, including avoiding the issue mentioned below.

UPDATE: Both BitlBee and Pidgin have both updated their source code trees, and Trillian has a new beta release.

Not showing online to your contacts
On some accounts, you will no longer show online to your contacts after changing the application ID.  This issue is being investigated, but does not affect the Microsoft Messenger clients revived using Messenger Reviver.  On Pidgin you can also use the msn-pecan protocol plugin to bypass the problem.

Meanwhile, despite “the end” of Messenger supposedly 12 days ago, the Messenger Service continues to hum along.

 

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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.

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.

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

Announcing… MessengerGeek Live Chat

messenger-geek-transpOne of the many things I’ve wanted to do for a long time is have a related live chat for this blog, and now I do.

You can get there by following the Live Chat link, located on the top of every page.  The chat is hosted on the tawx IRC network (irc.tawx.net), channel #messenger, so you can also use your own IRC client.  No sign up or registration is required, just fill in an optional nickname and choose the Connect button.

If you’re looking for me, you’ll see my nickname TReKiE denoted by a icon.

Come by and say hello!

The Big Date – April 8th, 2013 – UPDATED, XMPP till Oct, other applications till Mar 2014

As you probably have received via e-mail prior to reading this, Microsoft has finally decided on the date its shutting down Messenger – March 15, 2013.  UPDATE: Actually they’ve decided it’ll be April 8th now to start, completing by April 30th.

Besides including the date, the verbiage of the e-mail has changed slightly from earlier announcements as it now distinctly says the “Messenger service globally”, although again excludes mainland China.

However, the small FAQ at the end of the mail distinctly says “Messenger users on desktops” and that mobile Messenger versions will continue to work for “a while”.

So although we now know the date, the exact details are still a mystery.

UPDATE: On http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/live/default.aspx some details have finally been posted:

We recently announced that we’ll begin to encourage Messenger users to start using Skype. As a result, the Messenger developer program will end. Existing implementations that use Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) will continue to work until October 2013. Existing implementations that use MSP will continue to work until March 2014. For support for existing XMPP implementations, please visit our  Forums page.

What’s probably most important here is that existing Messenger software (Pidgin, Adium, Bitlbee, et al) will continue to work until March 2014.  With that known, it certainly should be possible to modify the desktop clients to work until that date.

You can sign in to Messenger now using Skype (beta)

The latest Skype beta released today, among other changes, now supports signing in with your .NET Passport Windows Live ID Microsoft account, then linking it to your Skype account which then signs into the Messenger service.  You can also just sign in without linking an existing Skype account.

Skype beta with Messenger support where I'm 107 years old

It also seems they’ve also taken upon the styling of Office 2013 with an all white colour scheme and the client offers to tell your Messenger contacts to download Skype with a big ‘Send download message’ button,“Hey, we’re not contacts on Skype yet. Go to skype.com and you can download it now for free.”  Not exactly what I would expect from professional software.

You're not using Skype!

On the instant messaging side, only basic text seems to be supported.  Display pictures (albeit not animated ones) are displayed properly and some Microsoft account profile information is transferred (like your contacts’ birthday, although with the wrong year – I’m apparently 107 years old).   As expected MPOP is supported, so it won’t sign you out on Messenger or other locations.  However if you use both Messenger and Skype clients now, you probably would not want to sign in to both unless you don’t value your personal sanity.

When I tried logging in without linking a Skype account, I was assigned a new Skype ID in the format of “live:beginningofemail”, so my test1557@jonathankay.com Live ID Microsoft account became live:test1557 which was callable and messageable from others using earlier Skype versions.

Reliability of the Messenger side seems pretty poor (understandable in its beta state) as I only got it to work once and it has refused to sign into Messenger since.  Although I have yet to find a way to unlink accounts, it seems if you just sign into Skype using only your normal Skype credentials, the Messenger portion is ignored.