Which instant-messaging client will take the place of the world’s most popular IM client?
Skype has the inside track, but there are a number of useful alternatives, many of which connect you to multiple messaging platforms.
Why Microsoft gave Live Messenger the boot
Microsoft’s May 10, 2011, announcement that it was acquiring Skype generated widespread speculation over what would happen with the extremely popular voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) service. It appeared that Microsoft was buying Skype simply to add real-time communications to its products (Xbox and Windows Phone were mentioned in the press release) and investments — including Facebook. The social-networking site did indeed receive Skype integration, shortly after Google released Google+ Hangouts, a free service that offers videoconferencing for up to 10 people at a time. There was also speculation that Skype would end up as a component of Windows 8. (The Windows 8 version of Skype is currently a separate download from the Microsoft Store.)
It’s now clear that there was more to the Skype accession than simply lending extra features to Facebook. The world’s most popular VoIP application, Skype is now available on virtually every mobile and desktop platform. It will even work on some traditional phone handsets — or turn your Sony PlayStation Vita or Apple iPod touch into a Wi-Fi-connected mobile phone.
Known primarily for its voice- and video-calling features, Skype also includes an IM client that’s rapidly growing in popularity. (It was originally intended to coordinate calls and exchange links during voice/video conferences.) That capability put it in direct competition with Windows Live Messenger. With its broad support for platforms outside the Windows ecosphere, Skype was the clear winner.
As most Skype users have now discovered, whether they like it or not, Microsoft is merging the two services under the Skype banner. As detailed in a recent Skype The Big Blog post, Messenger will disappear in Q1 2013 everywhere except in China. As a screenshot in the posting shows, Skype users who also have a Microsoft account are prompted to merge their accounts under their MS account sign-in name. As part of the merge process, Messenger contacts are automatically added to Skype. (If you later sign in using your original Skype name and password, you might get nag messages suggesting you use your MS account sign-in name.)
Pick an alternative to Skype/Messenger?
Skype is an excellent communications platform. Its all-inclusive package of instant messaging, cheap long-distance calls, and video chats on almost any platform have made it a must-have service for both personal and business users. For many Messenger users, moving to Skype is the obvious choice.