Remembering Microsoft's chat war with AOL

Microsoft might have killed off its Messenger service in favor of Skype recently, but back in 1999 it was the centerpiece of a heated war between the software giant and AOL. At the time, Microsoft had just introduced its MSN Messenger Service as a direct rival to AOL’s popular AIM instant messenger. David Auerbach, a former Microsoft engineer who worked directly on MSN Messenger, recounts his unusual role in a chat war with AOL. 

IN THE SUMMER OF 1998 I GRADUATED from college and went to work as a programmer at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. I was put on the group that was building MSN Messenger Service, Microsoft’s instant messaging app. The terrible name came from Marketing, which had become something of a joke for always picking the clunkiest and least imaginative product names. Buddy List? C U C Me? MSN Messenger? No, MSN Messenger Service. I’ll call it Messenger for short. At the time the big players in instant messaging were AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo, and ICQ. AIM had tens of millions of users; AOL had become the country’s biggest dial-up provider in the mid-’90s by blitzing everyone’s mailboxes with CD-ROMs, and all AOL users instantly became AIM users. Yahoo and ICQ each had millions of users. Those were big numbers for the 1990s.

Read full article

Comments