It’s official. MSN Messenger (or Windows Live Messenger as it is now known) will cease to exist on March 15, 2013. Obviously I can’t say I’ll miss it because I haven’t logged on to it since about 2007, but still – before Facebook allowed you to do all the cyber-socialising you could ever need, this ludicrously popular form of IM was front and centre of most teenagers’ lives. If you went to secondary school in the naughties, chances are you had MSN Messenger.
So, as I try to remember what the hell my password was so I can log in one last time, here are 12 of the things I will forever associate with the internet’s first insanely addictive social platform.
1. Design, design, design
On MSN, as with any other aspect of teenagerdomness, appearance was everything. What was your display picture? What was your background thing? What font were you writing in? What colour was it? WAS IT BOLD? So many choices, and so much to get right. And as MySpace rose to prominence in the mid-naughties, so inevitably did the art of ‘the selfie’; and soon most people’s MSN picture was a poorly Photoshopped self-portrait taken either in a mirror (Nokia in sight) or from arm’s length, looking back down. Before MySpace, however, it was all about Things You Found Cool Or Attractive. I remember one friend’s picture being a forest, for example. Another had Nadine Coyle off Girls Aloud. I, for some strange reason, had Tara Reid. I can’t even… I don’t know.
2. Waiting for one specific person to come online
If you were a shy or hideously awkward kid like myself, MSN was where you went to have conversations with all the people significantly cooler than yourself who weren’t approachable within the politics of the school day. Specifically, it was where you conversed with your crush. My biggest one in secondary school was a girl (I KNOW RIGHT?) who I sat next to in one class and was so awkward around that literally everything hinged on MSN chats. You’d get the little window thing pinging up in the bottom-right hand corner of the screen (“X has just signed in!”), leave it for a few minutes so as not to look too keen, then casually launch into heavily-abbreviated but carefully calculated dialogue. But the worst thing in the WHOLE WORLD? When you waited for ages for him/her, he/she came online, you allowed some time for not looking too keen, and then he/she WENT OFFLINE STRAIGHT AWAY. Gaaaah.
It’s sad, but when I think of MSN I immediately think of arguments and conflict. Two weeks before my GCSEs, I was melodramatically booted out of my friendship group by way of an en-masse “WE HATE SHAUN” MSN showdown. In sixth form, my best friend and I had monumental cyber-bust-ups on a monthly basis; him with hot-headed rage and me alternating between kiss-arse apologies and ill-advised catty comments. And it always, whether you made up straight away or not, made things really awkward when you ran into whoever you’d fallen out with at school the next morning.
4. Awkward Hotmail addresses
Either you were sensible and cool and just had an e-mail address like email@example.com, or you were like me and went for a Britney Spears-influenced firstname.lastname@example.org. Whenever I hear that song now, I immediately feel shame.
5. Pointless webcam
“X has asked to see your webcam.” Why? I’m literally just sitting here typing, possibly singing along to Hilary Duff.
6. “No Mum, really, I’m DEFINITELY revising”
When MSN was big, teenagers didn’t have their own Broadband-ready laptops. More often than not we were just hogging the family PC, telling younger siblings that we definitely needed to be on it all the time because we had, like, REALLY important homework to do. Justifying all that computer time to the parents needed more stealth. Having a BBC Bitesize revision window ready to bring up whenever Mum walked into the room was always my thing. Tragically, she didn’t fall for it once.
7. That fucking Nudge thing
I WILL REPLY WHEN I WANT TO REPLY FOR FUCK’S SAKE.
8. “Oops, sorry, wrong window!”
I was guilty of doing this so often that nowadays whenever I accidentally write to the wrong person on Whatsapp or Facebook Chat I’m worried they think I’m being tactical. But back in the day, there were so many deliberate ‘errors’. You want to catch the attention of someone you fancy/show off to someone you only half-like/revive the conversation with someone who’s shit at replying? Send them a message that looks like it’s from the middle of a separate conversation and immediately follow it with “OMG sorry! I was meant to send that to X! I should probably explain what it means…”
9. Making your own insufferable emoticons
On MSN, whenever you wanted to do that yellow smiling-face-thing, you’d just type :). Clever, right? Pfft. NOPE. Once people caught on to the fact that you could upload your own animated emoticons and set them to appear whenever you typed a certain word or code, you were both unstoppable and hideously annoying. My personal favourite was a nice subtle “lol”, where the two L’s became eyes and the O became a mouth, and it was animated to look like it was laughing. I resisted the urge to use this fucking annoying giant one where the three letters were needlessly on fire. IT DOESN’T LOOK COOL IT LOOKS TACKY. Sheesh.
10. “Show What I’m Listening To”
As someone whose music taste was the total opposite of what was acceptable, the ‘Show What I’m Listening To’ thing was paramount in giving me at least a smidgeon of street cred. I did, after all, have none to lose. The trouble was that I’d get so bored spending ages listening to, say, a Green Day album that within ten minutes I’d forget that the stupid MSN synch thing was on and start prancing around to Britney Spears and Ashlee Simpson. NOT COOL.
Text messaging started it and MSN kept it going. If you’re typing on a computer keyboard, you shouldn’t be saving that much time by writing “kl” instead of “cool”. COME ON PEOPLE.
12. Screen-names. Oh, the screen-names.
This is the MSN memory that makes me shudder the most. The screen-names. I was the kind of embarrassment to humanity who had overly-emotional song lyrics, like from Plain White Ts’ ‘Hey There Delilah’ or Avril Lavigne’s ‘My Happy Ending’. I really, really remember one though. As if it wasn’t bad enough that my e-mail address was named after Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’, I also spent AGES having a line from the chorus as my MSN screenname. It was: 1) Spelt in skin-crawling abbreviations (“ova” instead of “over”), 2) far more sexual than I realised at the time, and 3) NOT EVEN THE RIGHT FUCKING WORDS. And to think I was SO shocked when some of my friends wondered if I was gay.