We’ve spent the last few months posting about how we look at the industry, the key customer problems that are top-of-mind for us, and where we think we can improve the lives of our customers. Today in a speech at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil, Steve Ballmer is sharing a preview of the new Windows Live Messenger. In this post we want to talk more about our philosophy and approach for this new version. In subsequent posts we’ll go into more depth on different aspects of the experience.
As Chris laid out in his blog post last week, the world of instant messaging has evolved in the last 14 years. In the early days of IM, most of your close friends were on one IM network, connected using their PCs, and sent text-only instant messages back and forth.
Today, people still want to stay in touch with their friends, but three things have changed:
- IM has evolved. It has gone beyond text to video chat – people want to share photos, videos, and links, too. People still love IM – they just want it to do even more.
- Social networks have changed how people communicate. Our second observation is that while people still primarily communicate with close friends, their communication has shifted from one IM network to a richer but more complex social landscape. Now, almost all of us communicate with close (and not so close) friends using social networks, other sharing sites, email, SMS, and IM – and we do so from our phones as often as from our PCs. Most people already have a primary social network they love, and they just don’t need another one. And although nearly everyone uses multiple services now, very few people we talk to want just “aggregation,” either. If all you do is copy and paste all the social feeds into one place, it can easily lead to a messy, combined list, half of which you’re not really interested in anyway. Getting 50 random updates is less interesting than getting 5 from your family and close friends, and 1 cool video that 20 of your friends are commenting on.
- People are spending more time away from their PCs. More and more, people are staying connected on their phones, and they’re spending time browsing the web and in web-based email, rather than connected to a client program on their PCs. Any connection with friends needs to be able to follow you across the devices that you use throughout the day, and should integrate into the experiences you’re having on each of those devices.
With this context in mind, we set out to do three things with this version of Messenger.
- Improving the IM experience. Hundreds of millions of people use Messenger every day, and we heard loud and clear that they wanted to do more in their conversations. We focused on improving the personal interactions with your close friends, so that you can continue to connect in even richer ways with the people you care about most.
- Staying in touch with close friends. This begins with bringing together the most complete picture of what your friends are doing across your social networks and other sharing sites, and then helping you see at a glance what your favorite people are doing, wherever they’re doing it. This includes comprehensive integration with Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and a wide range of other sharing sites.
- Bringing Messenger with you to Hotmail, the web, and your phone. While the Windows PC is the best way to experience Messenger, we know that you spend a lot of time in web-based email, on your mobile phone, and browsing other websites. So we’ve built Messenger right into Hotmail, increased our support for SMS, and created Messenger apps for popular mobile phones.
Improving the IM experience
We know that hundreds of millions of people use Messenger every day and love it for what it provides – instant connection to their friends on Messenger. So we focused on making Messenger better for folks who love IM.
It can be difficult to have a meaningful online conversation about photos, videos, or website content when you’re not looking at the same stuff at the same time. The new version of Messenger brings you richer photo and video sharing, high-definition video chat, video messages, games, and one-click access to files on your PC, search results from Bing, and photos and videos shared on SkyDrive, Facebook, and other sharing sites. And we’ve made it easier than ever to do these together – so you can have a high-definition video chat with your friend while clicking through a set of photos, letting you see and hear each other’s reactions while you share. We’ve also made it easier to manage multiple simultaneous conversations by putting each one in its own tab.
And of course, as part of our deeper integration with Facebook, later this year Messenger will support Facebook Chat, so you’ll be able to IM all your Facebook friends from within Messenger.
Staying in touch with close friends
Most people today visit at least one social network and dozens of content sharing sites, get email with photos and social notifications, and of course, maintain accounts in numerous places with different sets of friends and content. So we focused on connecting Messenger to the social networks you already use, and prioritizing the most important updates so you can quickly see what your favorite people are doing, wherever they’re doing it.
We know your close friends share using email, IM, and social networks. So we brought all of those together into a single view. The status from your Facebook friends who don’t use Messenger? Check. The photos your mom sent you as plain old e-mail attachments? Check. The Office docs you’re collaborating on with friends in SkyDrive? Check. And the stuff your favorite Messenger friends are doing on hundreds of sites they choose to share from? Check.
And since simple “aggregation” can make things worse instead of better, we focused on prioritizing the people that matter most to you, so you don’t miss the handful of important updates from your closest friends and family just because your college and work “friends” are broadcasting their whole life every minute of the day. Just tag your favorite people, and we optimize your feed for the stuff those people are doing. Of course, it’s not 100% exclusive to your favorites – the most interesting things from your other friends like photos, videos, and links (especially the ones being commented on a lot) are there too. This makes us a great companion to the services you already love like Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, LinkedIn and more – and when you have time to go beyond those most important updates, diving deeper into those sites is just a click away.
Lastly, we recognized that we could connect your social updates to the power of the Windows PC and really bring it to life. So we took advantage of the latest advances in hardware and graphics to give you a modern social experience. This means that Messenger brings beautiful high-resolution views of the photos, videos, and links that your friends are sharing, right to your desktop. View their Facebook albums, gorgeously presented so that they’re fun to browse through and easy to comment on. Messenger is also the simplest way to update your status and instantly post it to other sharing sites you use. You can even bring your photo albums right into high-definition video chats with your friends.
Here’s a picture of the new social view for Messenger:
Bringing Messenger with you to Hotmail, the web, and your phone
People are increasingly needing to stay in touch while away from their primary PC, so we are bringing Messenger to the places you communicate from. Our upcoming release will include not just Messenger itself, but also an update to Hotmail that puts Messenger front and center there, too (we’ll talk more about that soon). And we’ll bring Messenger to breadth broad range of mobile experiences, from SMS and simple browsing, to new Messenger apps for popular smartphones. The new Messenger Companion add-on for Internet Explorer will let you share links and comments from whatever website you’re on. And we’ll deliver an updated version of the the Messenger Web Toolkit (now called Messenger Connect), so websites can embed Messenger friends, conversations, and social updates directly into their experiences.
The new Windows Live Messenger
The way people socialize and connect with their friends is changing. We designed the new Messenger with these changes in mind so you can continue to use it to connect to your closest friends, wherever they are, and wherever you are. As Chris announced earlier, we’ll be releasing this to a limited number of individuals externally in the very near future, before expanding to a broader public beta, and finally to the full public release.
Here’s a video to show you a little bit of what is in store:
You can also learn more about the upcoming Messenger release at www.messengerpreview.com.
We look forward to sharing this with all of you soon, and getting your feedback!