MSN Messenger needs to return in Windows 12 to take on WhatsApp and iMessage

MSN Messenger in Windows 11
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Microsoft seems to be on a mission to look at every aspect of Windows in recent years, with Paint, Notepad, and Windows Media Player all getting their own glow-ups. But its messaging side could do with some attention.

If you remember the late 2000s, a big way of messaging friends after school, at least for me, was using MSN Messenger on Windows XP. Between 2001 and 2007, it was the go-to way of keeping in touch with many, a messaging tool where you could add emojis to your name, which was way ahead of its time, alongside much more.

While Windows already has messaging apps, such as Skype, it’s not hit the ground running like WhatsApp or Apple’s iMessage service has. So instead, Microsoft should use this opportunity to position a rebooted MSN Messenger as its main Windows 12 messaging app, alongside making it available on as many platforms as possible.

Why is MSN Messenger still highly regarded?

MSN Messenger 6

Remember Nudges? Maybe that's one thing Microsoft shouldn't bring back, actually. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Nostalgia can be a powerful thing, and even loading up version 6 of Messenger from 2004 on Windows 11 back in 2022 brought plenty of memories back for me. Logging on after school and talking about nothing in a bunch of group chats was something many of us did.

But for others, it was also a great way to catch up on some work from days that may have overrun, especially as you could transfer files to one another.

As this was before social media was even a thing (well, MySpace was trying), MSN Messenger was a big factor in changing perceptions of exactly what a PC was. It was slowly changing from being something individuals used in a darkened room, to kids asking parents if they could use the family computer to talk to their friends.

It was a rare time when Microsoft was ahead of the curve, and it would quickly bring in updates that came with more emojis, Nudges that would send screen-shaking popups to your conversational partners, and the ability to ‘Appear Offline’, so you could stay online but be invisible to others - as well as webcam support, a rarity in those days.

But of course, Microsoft 'did a Microsoft', and started rebranding the app with a different name in 2006 with ‘Windows Live Messenger’, alongside a new look. But this only hastened its decline, and combined with MySpace, Facebook, and Bebo coming to the fore, it was discontinued in 2013.

Nowadays, messaging apps are all around us, and while social media platforms seem to be either chronically mismanaged or drawing only boredom from existing users, it could be the perfect time when MSN Messenger is rebooted and relaunched as the main messaging app on Windows.

Make it the iMessage of Windows 12

iMessage interface on iPhone

(Image credit: Future / Apple)

When you first boot into an Apple device, whether that’s a Mac or an iPhone, you’re able to send a message to someone in less than five minutes. Try doing this in Windows 11, and you’ll have to try and log into Skype, or WhatsApp for desktop - but these both require you to download the apps first.

That’s a problem for those who want to use a new laptop or tablet to communicate right away - that ease and speed of use for messaging simply isn’t there in Windows. But for a new MSN Messenger in Windows 12 that’s pre-installed, just like Apple’s Messages app, there could be.

Apple has been digging its heels in about not allowing iMessage on Android and Windows, and for good reason. As some emails have said from Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President (SVP) of software engineering at Apple, it would be one less reason for some users to switch from Android and Windows.

But this could be an opportunity for Windows. Its CEO, Satya Nadella, has always been a big proponent of having Windows as a service, and the same can apply here to MSN Messenger. Having an app that takes the privacy of Apple, the design of Telegram, and the nostalgia of what Messenger was in 2002, could be a great draw for many.

Yet this could just be the start of this new app. It would mix in well with its Surface line, especially the Surface Duo 2 smartphone, and nudges and winks could be resurrected as notifications and message effects, working across a bunch of devices and platforms.

It's time for Microsoft to take Messaging seriously


(Image credit: Microsoft)

While Windows 11 has had its fair share of fans and foes due to its redesign of the Taskbar, Explorer, and plenty else, it also acts as a good feedback form for Microsoft to see what users want in Windows 12.

Seeing Media Player finally get a return in 2022 was a sign to me that Microsoft isn’t afraid anymore of going back to apps from the past that worked well. This is why MSN Messenger could give its messaging arm a big level up.

While it offers its Microsoft 365 Office Suite, Xbox gaming app, and music offerings, there’s no consumer messaging app to help tie it all together - no matter how hard it tries to push Teams. I'm not going to use Teams, Mr Nadella.

So let’s see Windows 12 launch with the return of MSN Messenger, where you can start messaging friends and family with a nudge and a wink for the modern age - all while being able to access it on your Android and iPhone devices, and perhaps soon, your Vision Pro headset.

Daryl Baxter
Software & Downloads Writer

Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time he's written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', alongside podcasting and usually found playing games old and new on his PC and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app, one that's about to launch, or just anything Software-related, drop him a line.