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Microsoft is making some changes to its instant messaging program. As a result, what we know and love today as Messenger will eventually go away and be replaced with Skype.
Microsoft recently announced that Microsoft Messenger instant messaging would be migrated to Skype, which it purchased in 2011.
What that really means is very simple: Messenger is going away and Skype is replacing it.
Before you panic, that doesn't mean you'll lose anything at all. Because at the same time, Microsoft announced that you can now log in to Skype using your Microsoft Account and when you do, you'll find all of your Messenger contacts there ready for you to chat with.
Unfortunately, so much of the terminology that Microsoft has used over the years is so incredibly confusing, I need to lay out just what "Messenger" I'm talking about and what a "Microsoft Account" is.
Then, we can download the latest Skype and even merge our Skype and Microsoft accounts.
In Microsoft's announcement, they refer to "Messenger." Just "Messenger." So what is that? It is the current name for:
Windows Live Messenger
MSN Messenger (occasionally incorrectly referred to by many as simply "MSN")
Important: These are all today the same thing; they're simply called "Messenger" or "Microsoft Messenger."
If you're logging in with your Hotmail or Windows Live account and doing some instant messaging with it, then it's Microsoft Messenger that you're using.
Speaking of accounts...
In Microsoft's current literature, they refer simply to your "Microsoft account." This single account gets you access to all of Microsoft's free online services.
A Microsoft account is or was:
Your Windows Live Account
Your MSN Account
Your Hotmail Account
Your Microsoft Passport Account
For most people, it's the account that uses your Hotmail.com, MSN.com, Outlook.com or Live.com email address as your user ID.
So, whatever account you use to login to use Microsoft Messenger (aka Windows Live Messenger), that's your Microsoft account and the account we're talking about here.
In order to use your Microsoft Account to log in to Skype, you'll need to download the latest version.
Note: As I write this, the "Check For Updates" option in an existing Skype installation doesn't seem to work. It reports nothing as available. Go to the Skype home page, click on Get Skype in the navigation bar across the top of the page and then download the latest version of Skype for your platform.
Exit Skype if you're running it and run the downloaded installer.
Note the important message:
... as Skype includes IM and your buddies, Messenger will be uninstalled.
Yes, when you install the latest Skype, Microsoft Messenger will be removed from your system. This actually makes sense because you can do everything with Skype that you would do with Messenger and more.
As you Next through the subsequent installation screens, make sure to pay close attention to all options. Microsoft would like to make Bing your search engine, for example, so be sure to uncheck those types of options unless they're actually what you want.
Skype will then ask you to login with your Microsoft Account:
That would be the account you used for Microsoft Messenger in the past. In my case, that's my Hotmail.com account.
If you already have a Skype account (as I do), the next step allows you to merge the two:
Click on I have a Skype account if you have one. You'll then be asked to login to that account. After which, you'll get this confirmation that your accounts are about to be merged:
Note the message: "From now on, please use your Microsoft account [your name] to sign into Skype."
And that's it! Skype now replaced Microsoft Messenger and you can do all of your instant messaging with yoru MSN/Live/Microsoft buddies using Skype.
Note now that you should also be "findable" on Skype using either your Microsoft Account ID (i.e. your email address), or your old Skype ID.
You may find that some of your buddies are listed twice in Skype.
Those that are running both Skype and Microsoft Messenger will show up separately once for each. As they migrate to the new combined Skype, I'd expect them to display only once.
I was actually hoping that something like this would happen when Microsoft purchased Skype. My experience is that Skype's audio and video connections are less problematic and often higher quality than the equivalent in Microsoft Messenger.
And if all you're doing is instant messaging in text, either will do.
Update: Microsoft has posted a fairly length FAQ here.
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