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MSN Messenger and Windows Live Messenger users are being told they must upgrade. We'll look at why, and what some alternatives might be.
I'm trying to launch MSN Messenger and it's telling me I must upgrade to the latest version of Windows Live Messenger. I don't like Windows Live Messenger, can't I just keep my old MSN Messenger? There must be a way.
And you don't really want there to be, for reasons I'll explain in a moment.
The bottom line is that if you're running MSN Messenger or even an older version of Windows Live Messenger itself, you must upgrade. There's no avoiding that.
Now, as to what you upgrade to, well, there's a little wiggle room.
The reason you must upgrade is simple: as reported in the infopackets windows newsletter there's a vulnerability in the older Messenger programs that can be exploited by a malicious attacker and can be used, in the worst case, to take over your machine. Microsoft has fixed this in the latest Windows Live Messenger and is now requiring that you upgrade to squash the vulnerability.
Much like the forced upgrade from MSN Hotmail to MSN Live Hotmail there's no alternative; you must upgrade. The old versions are no longer supported and will soon simply not work, if they haven't stopped working already.
Could they have fixed the older versions? Perhaps. But I'm not at all surprised that Microsoft would also use this as an opportunity to also help push the migration to "Windows Live" along. And particularly when it comes to free software and services, it just makes sense to support one and only one version of the software rather than trying to keep old versions working as well.
Remember, "Windows Live Messenger" isn't a new program, it's just the latest version of MSN Messenger with a new name.
So my first recommendation is to simply upgrade and give Windows Live Messenger a chance. You may be surprised.
But what if you still don't like Windows Live Messenger? There are two basic approaches:
Stop using the Windows Messenger Service all together, and switch to another IM service.
Switch to one of the alternative, non-Microsoft IM client programs.
Switching services is a big deal. All of your contacts now are on MSN/Windows Live Messenger, and if you switch to one of the other services such as AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk or others, then all your contacts would need to move as well. It may be easier than you think - you might want to check with your contacts and see if they already have accounts on those other services.
But of course you'll want to check out the client programs that work with those other services to make sure that they work and don't irritate you in the same way that Windows Live Messenger apparently does.
The second alternative is actually what I do. Run a third party IM client program. In my case I run Trillian. Trillian is a single program that allows you to IM with MSN/Windows Live Messenger contacts as well as AIM, Yahoo and others. You'd install and use it instead of Windows Live Messenger, but you're able to IM with all your Windows Live Messenger contacts.
Another alternative is Pidgin, an open source equivalent to Trillian. Same idea: you install Pidgin and use it instead of Windows Live Messenger to communicate to the same buddies you had before.
A third and completely different alternative is to use a web based IM service such as Meebo. You can IM through several different services via the Meebo website. (Caveat: while I've used both Trillian and Pidgin, I've not played with Meebo at all. Readers have reported good things about it, however.)
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