Tech

What happened to Yahoo! Messenger?

If you’re old enough to remember a world without smartphones, you’ve probably heard of Yahoo! Messenger (or the Yahoo! search engine), even if you’ve never used it. The instant messaging client has never been the most popular of its kind, but for years it has come close enough to keep trying, introducing many features years before they became the norm.

In 1998 Yahoo! was the most visited site on the internet with an index of recommended websites, an email service, chat rooms and more. Instant messaging had already become popular thanks to ICQ and AIM over the previous two years, but the market was still growing along with the Internet itself. Creating a rival based on Yahoo! The chat was easy and doomed to success.

Yahoo! The pager was launched in 1998 with notifications when friends go online or when Yahoo! An email message has been received, and 3 types of status: “free”, “busy” and “on vacation”. Ability to add friends based on their Yahoo! the username, which was visible in other sections of the site, almost turned into Yahoo! to a social network. In 1999, Pager gained voice chat capability and was rebranded as Yahoo! Messenger. That same year, competition intensified with Microsoft’s MSN Messenger.

ahead of my time

Next year, Yahoo! pioneered mobile instant messaging by signing an agreement with Palm to provide Messenger along with PDAs. Shortly thereafter, versions for Windows CE and mobile phones became available.

According to one 2000 survey, Yahoo! Messenger and MSN Messenger had around 10 million US users, while AIM had over 20 million. In late 2001, version 5.0 added file transfer and video chat capabilities at 120 x 160 resolution at one (yes, one) frame per second. Because Microsoft only offered video chat on Windows Messenger, which was exclusive to Windows XP, it was still the best option for many users.

Yahoo! Messenger continued to grow, reaching approximately 20 million US users in 2002, but still hasn’t closed the gap on AIM, unlike MSN Messenger.

In version 5.5, video chat quality has been improved to 240 x 320 resolution and 20 frames per second. Another feature that turned out to be more influential than first thought was the inclusion of emojis, including animated ones.

Even though Y!M couldn’t match MSN Messenger or AIM in terms of user numbers, its users were estimated to spend much more time on the app, averaging 57 minutes a day. Version 6.0, released in 2004, also allowed users to listen to radio stations and play two-player games within the app, as well as share Yahoo! contacts and search results.

This version also introduced a stealth mode with the ability to show offline for selected contacts or groups. Another interesting feature was the ability to use a custom avatar that would react to conversation emojis as a profile picture. In the same year, the T-Mobile Sidekick II joined the list of devices running Y!M.

In 2005, the app was renamed to Yahoo! Messenger with Voice 7.0 including free voicemail, the ability to call landlines cheaper than Skype, drag and drop file sharing, and integration with the forgotten Yahoo! 360 social network. That same year, Yahoo! signed an agreement with Microsoft to connect Windows Live and Yahoo! messengers. This feature was included in Y!M with Voice 8.0 in 2006.

In 2007 Yahoo! released Messenger for the web with an online archive of conversations about a year before Facebook had its own Messenger. It could be considered a revolutionary service if Google Talk hadn’t been around for almost two years. In the same year, Y!M’s user base peaked at approximately 94 million, second only to Windows Live.

Later that year, Yahoo! Messenger for Vista launched with a tabbed interface and design to match the new version of Windows. Less than a year later, this version was discontinued and removed from the site. Yahoo! Then Messenger 9.0 saw the light of day, allowing you to embed content from YouTube and Flickr, then the largest image-sharing site on the web. Additional sites have been added with further updates…

Image problem

Y!M had a Symbian version in 2006, a Blackberry version in 2007, and an iPhone version in 2009: after Facebook, but before Facebook Messenger or any of Yahoo!’s old competitors, and before WhatsApp became an app for messaging.

Unlike Flickr 1.0, the iPhone app has been generally well received, so why hasn’t it become the most popular messaging app in the mobile age?

This may be partly due to the fact that Yahoo! in general was not as popular as before. Google has ditched all other search competitors, including Yahoo!, and elsewhere it has failed to establish a successful social network or even a web presence as a de facto destination.

Y!M has also become notorious for the amount of spam or “SPIM” (spam + instant messaging) on ​​it, with no easy fix other than blocking messages from anyone not on your contact list. Once Facebook and WhatsApp introduced messaging apps, Y!M as a mobile solution was quickly forgotten.

Those who stayed with Yahoo! received several significant updates in the following years: version 10, released in 2009, offered full-screen video chat with improved quality. An Android version became available in 2010. The following year, version 11 finally offered online conversation archiving, allowing multiple devices to stay logged in at the same time, along with Facebook and Twitter integration.

This was the last major release of the Windows desktop app. In late 2012/early 2013, public chats, interaction with Windows Live Messenger, and the app’s phone capabilities were shut down.

Starting again (and again)

In 2015 Yahoo! launched a completely redesigned Messenger app with the ability to like or un-like messages, and share Tumblr GIF-style images from within the app for iOS, Android, and the web. This version was just as well received as the original, but by then the market was saturated.

Ironically, the original Y!M remained the preferred form of communication among oil traders around the world until 2016, when a new Windows app was released. The new version, like other modern messaging applications, could not serve as an option for them to unsend messages, and the fact that they could not be saved offline from the application did not meet industry standards for recording conversations.

In 2017, Verizon Media, which had already acquired AOL, bought Yahoo!. A year later, Yahoo! Squirrel was released to replace Y!M and AIM with a focus on group chats. A year later, the application was renamed to Yahoo! Together and then discontinued.

Another return of Yahoo! unlikely. Messenger, but many still remember it as the first app that gave them a similar experience to today’s messaging apps.

TechSpot series “What’s wrong with…”

The history of software applications and companies that at some point became popular and widely used, but now disappeared. We cover the most important areas of their history, innovations, successes and controversies.


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