Throwback Thursday: MSN Messenger

Thursday, 12 April 2018


First of all, a massive thank you for all the lovely feedback on the Myspace edition of Throwback Thursday, it seems a lot of us we're all in the same boat when it came to perfecting the emo fringe. However, before (and somewhat during) Myspace, there was another internet sensation that was the OG messaging system, MSN. 

MSN Messenger was launched way back in 1999, when a lot of us were still using dial up internet connections or barely had a computer in our homes at all. In 2006 it was re-branded as Windows Live Messenger, and in 2013 was discontinued with the likes of Skype and Facebook Messenger taking over.

If you weren't hot on the MSN bandwagon, a lot of you may be thinking 'why on earth is a messaging platform such a TBT?' Well, my friend, a lot like Myspace, MSN was one of the first of it's kind, and just about every kid at the time would run home from school to log on and talk to friends they literally just said bye to.

Alongside a picture and a name, you could create a Personal Message which often consisted of Evanescence lyrics and wilted rose emoticons. That's right, emoticons were a thing before emojis. The fact I can happily list a handful of emoticon shortcuts just from memory 15 years later says it all: (W) (}) (P) (pi) (h5) ... 


Over the years, MSN released many different versions of it's messenger, always improving the system. One year saw them introducing the 'Nudge', this was an extremely annoying feature that was built for impatient people. If you wanted your buddys attention, hitting the nudge button made the recipients screen shake and focus on their conversation. It was a pretty hacky feature if you think about it, and nothing but an inconvenience when I was in the middle of trying to win a game of Falling Furni on Habbo Hotel.

Then came then personalised emoticons. You might have thought Tumblr was the birth of the gif, but MSN saw these come in many moons ago. You had the kids that would just add the odd handful of emoticons, or those that would change every single letter on their keyboard to an emoticon meaning their message of a simple hello took about 3 minutes to load, to present you with sparkles, bounces and a guaranteed headache.

Another cool feature of MSN was the 'Show what i'm listening to' integration. This allowed your MSN to link to your Windows Media Player (or a dodgy version of iTunes that took 75 years to load on a Windows XP) and quite simply does what it says on the tin. This was crucial for Myspace Queens to make sure everyone knew they were listening to My Chemical Romance. Before Spotify was a thing and we all lived on Limewire, the 'what i'm listening to' feature also spurred on people to ask you to send them the song you're listening to. This would take at least half hour to receive and when you did, the beginning of the track included some pirate radio DJ bellowing "another one" way before anyone new who DJ Khaled was. This feature was how I discovered Luke Pickett, and how I then went on to be a massive Green Day fan for all of about 6 months. 

I can still hear the log in sound in my head to this day, and god forbid if your crush ever logged onto MSN after you. That meant you had to appear offline and back online again so they would initiate the conversation. We also all did the "oops sorry wrong convo" to get someones attention, or even better, blaming your friend that you absolutely wasn't with at the time. You also had the weird people that were just always online but set to Away. They were clearly the guys already on broadband.

God forbid if anyone started a convo with 'wanna cam?' and you'd have to turn your webcam on and cover it with your finger to pretend it was broken, instead of just simply saying "no". Every so often you'd have a clear out of your friends list so you could get rid of the creeps from AOL chat rooms.

The people that had the most conversations going at once were those that started their display name with a dash so they appeared at the top of everyones online list. They also wrote their ѕ¢яєєη ηαмє ℓιкє тнιѕ, and they were also the people that picked their font style and colour very carefully. Comic Sans was (and still is) a big no no...

WhatsApp is great, but there really was nothing quite like MSN - where's the petition to bring it back?

Image Source: Windows XP

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