MSN Messenger was a hard-working internet visionary which taught a generation to touch-type and lol, writes BBC technology reporter Dave Lee.
It touched the lives of millions of teenagers who, in an age before real social networking, were just getting accustomed to what it was like to live on the internet.
MSN Messenger heralded a new era: a time when chatting up a classmate no longer meant the terrifying prospect of actually having to say something to them.
It meant no longer would young teens have to endure the torture of ringing the landline number of their newest crush – knowing there was a high probability that dad would pick up.
But after all the “ASL?”s and “u there?”s, Messenger’s loyal subjects became less dependent. “I’ll brb”, people said… but they never did.
Other sites, smarter and better looking, would see Messenger cast aside. In an age of exciting digital discovery, Messenger became the web’s wooden toy.
After a long career, it spent its final year enjoying a comfortable retirement in China. Its less well-regarded relative, Windows Messenger, still battles on on work computers the world over.
“It’s like MSN,” office workers say, “â€¦just not as fun.”
MSN Messenger is survived by Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Snapchat, Skype, Google+ and Instagram.
I gave Mark an Sony Xperia J last Christmas which he loved. Â He thought it was the greatest phone ever, even if it wasnâ€™t. Â The Sony Xperia J has a memory problem that means that it doesnâ€™t handle apps well. Â I am not sure why this version of Android on this phone acts so poorly but according to the tech forums, it does.
The phone broke this summer and all of a sudden Markâ€™s attitude changed for the better. Â So much that we had some very long talks about it. Â He told me he missed being able to talk to his friends and Wendy and I via text but he didnâ€™t really miss his phone very much. Â He was kind of glad that he didnâ€™t have it around. Â He was funnier, more laid back, and said he was sleeping better.
It wasnâ€™t the phone that was the problem, it was that he would find some time and play some games that would keep him on it for hours. Â He was like a lot of youth, addicted to their phone.
So we talked about the kind of phone that we would get. Â I decided on getting him a Blackberry Curve. It would let him text others and not be distracted by other stuff. Virgin Mobileâ€™s was $150 which I found a little steep. Â Telus had one for $100 so I decided to make the switch. Â He isnâ€™t under contract so I set off to Best Buy and get his phone. Â While I was there, I saw they had a Nokia Lumia 520 for Windows Phone for $110. Â I was torn over what phone to get but in the end it was the constant barrage of Windows Phone tweets by Darren Sproat that won me over. Â I havenâ€™t heard of anyone excited over a Blackberry since 2005.
I set it up with Telus who has far inferior pre-paid plans than Virgin Mobile and gave it to Mark. Â The next day the phone wasnâ€™t working. Â I called back and Telus said that they hadnâ€™t gotten paid. Â I had a receipt and a confirmation number from Mastercard and still that wasnâ€™t enough. Â It was kind of weird. Â
So I took Markâ€™s phone to Tech Box. Â I had never been in there and they unlocked the phone for $20. Â It took a couple of days more than they said (the first code was slow coming and then didnâ€™t work) but they told me that one of them would be in the office on a Sunday and to stop by. Â We did, they unlocked the doors, and the phone was working. Â He was thrilled.
So I set up Markâ€™s phone for him and I have really come to like it. Â It doesnâ€™t have all of the apps that the iPhone or Android does but I was able to get himâ€¦
- The Score
- A podcast app
- Weather app
He told me today that he misses having a StarPhoenix app but other than that, he is set. Â Internet Explorer isnâ€™t that bad on the phone either. Â I didnâ€™t install any games and he is fine with that. Â The phone is pretty snappy and the tiles feature of Windows 8 is designed for a phone (and not a computer screen). Â It works really well. Â I have told a couple of people that while I love my iPhone, I could switch to Windows Phone and be perfectly happy. Â Especially when I think that I spent $110 for the phone.
There are some other cool stuff installed for apps like a transit app (that doesnâ€™t work in Saskatoon because we donâ€™t make our route information available like most other cities). Â Bing Maps is no better or worse than Apple Maps (actually it is probably better).
So back to Mark. Â Heâ€™s happy with the phone. Â He likes not having a phone with the distractions of games and then frustrated over not getting other things done. Â Heâ€™s like a lot of 14 year olds but with this phone, he seems to have found a mix of being connected and not being too connected. Â We will see how it goes.
Â There are more than 300 of them in New York â€” violent crews of dozens of 12- to 20-year-olds with names such as Very Crispy Gangsters, True Money Gang and Cash Bama Bullies.
Police say these groups, clustered around a particular block or housing project, are responsible for about 40 percent of the cityâ€™s shootings, with most of that violence stemming from the smallest of disses on the street, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
â€œItâ€™s like belonging to an evil fraternity,â€ said Inspector Kevin Catalina, commander of the New York Police Departmentâ€™s gang division. â€œA lot of it is driven by nothing: A dispute over a girl or a wrong look or a perceived slight.â€
The trend of smaller, younger crews has also been seen in Chicago and Northeast cities over the last few years as police have cracked down on bigger, more traditional gangs, experts said. While the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings still exist, operating such money-making schemes as drug dealing, their members are usually older and understand the timeworn mantra of organized crime: violence is bad for business.
Not so for the crews, whose recklessness prompted former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly in 2012 to launch an initiative to confront the crews dubbed Operation Crew Cut.
Investigators now focus on gathering intelligence about specific crews â€” understanding their activities, allegiances and feuds, which they glean through traditional street policing and trolling of social media sites, cellphone photos and even recorded jailhouse calls.
Police have also stepped up arrests of the most active crew members. In Manhattan, prosecutors set up an internal email alert system that notifies them when crew member are arrested, even on minor charges, and provides beyond-the-rap-sheet details for bail arguments. The prosecutor might mention that the person was a suspect in another crime or had made threats on Facebook, for instance.
In a recent case in Harlem, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. says a 2009 killing kindled years of vendetta attacks, including three killings and 30 shootings. Sixty-three people were rounded up, and at least 62 entered guilty pleas, including crew members so young that one told another to â€œmob upâ€ after school.
â€œThe evidence was very powerful,â€ said Robert Anesi, who represented a 19-year-old who pleaded guilty to attempted murder and conspiracy charges in the case last week. â€œThey had such access to social media and they knew who the players were.â€
NYPD statistics show gang arrests are up citywide nearly 14 percent from 2013 â€” and more than 28 percent from two years ago. Shooting incidents citywide are about the same as they were last year, with 282 recorded so far, and are down by nearly 23 percent from two years ago.
Still, crew-related violence persists despite record dips in overall crime in New York City over the last few years. The most notable recent case came in March when investigators say a 14-year-old member of the Stack Money Goons shot a .357 revolver at a rival member of the Twan Family on a crowded bus in Brooklyn. The bullet instead killed an immigrant father who was working two jobs to support his family.
â€œWhen you ask young adults, â€˜Why? Why did you shoot that young man?â€™ Probably 80 percent of the time the answer is: He disrespected me,â€ said Kai Smith, an ex-con-turned-businessman who runs a gang-diversion program in city high schools.
Christmas for us started on the 23rd as we joined our good friends Gloria, Jerry, and Kristy for our traditional Christmas together. Â It was a bit different this year because of Gloria’s cancer but it was a fun night of exchanging gifts and hanging out. Â We gave some books (as is our tradition) but I gave Gloria a Sound Spa which should help her sleep while the boys gave her a plush blanket.
Because I like to make fun of Kristy, we gave her an Edmonton Oilers Snuggie. Â Because most of Kristy’s life is dedicated to a) staying warm and b) the Edmonton Oilers, she liked it.
Christmas Eve had Wendy working all day. Â This is the worst schedule she has ever had over a Christmas season and it hasn’t been a lot of fun for us as a family but that is the life of people working retail. Â I worked part of the day and then headed home to spend the rest of the day with the boys. Â We gave the boys two early gifts of some NHLPA hockey sticks so they could play some road hockey during the day. Of course it was freezing outside so instead of playing hockey, we just taped them up. Â While she worked, we packed up the Mazda and headed out to Warman where we spent the evening at Â Lee and Brittany’s place for a traditional Christmas supper of lasagna and fighting over who got the lasagna leftovers before opening gifts.
Lee is known to master such phrases as “less talking, more chewing” on Christmas Eve. Â While he loves lasagna, he loves presents more. Â In the past when Wendy was working, he would spend most of the day badmouthing Wendy and trying to convince Mark to open Christmas presents without his mom. Â He takes this whole Christmas gift opening seriously.
Of the delay in eating turned costly when Oliver was playing with Tika (Lee and Brittany’s dog) and fell nose first into the edge of the carpet. Â There was crying, rug burn, and blood all over the place. Â While Oliver’s new shirt paid a steep cost, all was okay. Â It wasn’t as if I didn’t expect blood, I just expected it over the lasagna.
Santa gave Mark a new HTC Desire CÂ Android Smart phonewhile I got him aÂ Fuji AV150 camera (and tripod). Â I had created a Instagram, Foursquare, and upgraded his Flickr to a pro account on Sunday. Â We made sure we had batteries, SD (and Micro SD) cards all ready to go. Â Now we have to download some apps which will mean some quality time on Google Play today. Â I gave him a 1932 Chevrolet Truck scale model to build, Oliver gave him some adventure and Star Wars blueprint books (and some Daytona 500 cologne). Â He also got a graphic novel story of Canadians in WWII as well as a book on how to create his own graphic novel
In his stocking he found a new watch, a big bottle of the worst cologne known to man, Brut 33 (Wendy wept tears of pain when I showed her the bottle) Â Mark also got some high quality headphones; both on the ear and in ear ones. Â The less I have to listen to 90s rock, the better.Â
Lee and Brittany gave him a Denver Broncos jersey with his name and number on it. Â Thank goodness Tim Tebow was traded before the season started. Â He was pretty excited with that. Â Almost as excited as Tim Tebow gets about everything.
He also got a Starbucks travel mug and gift card from myself. Â It’s a bit self-serving as he wanders down to The Lighthouse and takes me out for coffee. Â To keep all of his special memories safe, we gave him a small chest to keep some of life’s momentos.
All Oliver wanted was a pogo stick and I found him one from Santa on Amazon.com. Â I gave him a toy F-22 Raptor jet. Â I would have gotten his a F-35 toy but the price kept increasing until Stephen Harper told me not to get it for him. Â Mark gave him a rescue play set, a puzzle from the dogs, an Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber, and an Optimus Prime Transformer that talks. Â He is getting into hockey to I got him some mini hockey sticks and nets.
Lee and Brittany gave him a tricked out big wheel for Christmas. Â I immediately thought of this.
What’s scary is that I think Oliver would think that was a good idea.
His favourite gift by far was a Power Ranger that transforms into something else. Â He was quite jacked about it. Â
With the new iPod I gave Wendy for her birthday, I gave her a set of iHome speakers and some perfume. Â We got her an electric griddle and skillet (she asked for them), a new popcorn maker (which she was really excited about). Â Mark gave her a pink Zepco fishing rodÂ which she was horrified of. Â Lucky for Wendy, the fishing is horrible in our part of Last Mountain Lake. Â We also got her some high quality over the ear and in-ear headphones. Â If nothing else she will be able to tune us out for Christmas. Â The dogs gave her some new knives and a kitchen scale. Â Not sure where they got the money to get those.
Lee and Brittany gave her a gift card for Dutch Growers which made her day. Â She’s out right now waiting for spring to hit.
I bought Lee a Leatherman Skeletool multitoolÂ and case.Â Mark got him Red Dead Redemption for the PS3, while Oliver got him a George Reed collector’s edition figurine. Â Lee and Mark got into an argument a couple of weeks ago where Mark called his uncle, “Uncle Glitter” which has kind of stuck. Â Mark got him some glitter stickers for his new iPhone 5. Â Â “Uncle Glitter” didn’t seem to appreciate his nephew’s gift that much. Â
He tried to pull his knife on the Skeletool on Mark for bugging him but he couldn’t get it open. Â Once he got it open, he cut himself. Â
Brittany was given a nice fountain pen, two journals (one lined and one unlined), and an Indigo gift card. Â Because both Lee and Brittany are getting new iPhones, we tossed in some iTunes cards as well. Â Holding her Indigo gift card was Cooper the Bear which apparently has been a Sears mascot for years (a fact that I did not know). Â It just seemed to work well for us. Â Brittany is an english teacher and I just think an English teacher with a fountain pen is more intimidating. Â It was either that or do what the NRA is suggesting and that is to give her a firearm.
Wendy gave Brittany a soapstone statue of a couple from Ten Thousand Villages which I really liked. Â As much fun as it is to bug Lee, him and Brittany are a wonderful couple.
I wasn’t expecting too much but Wendy and the boys did a lot of planning and looking for good deals. Â Wendy gave me a trail GPS and a George Reed limited edition action figure, Oliver gave me a Toronto Blue Jays hat, Mark gave me Assasin’s Creed II and Red Dead Redemption. Â I also got a Leatherman Skeletool. Â To balance out my Tim Tebow action figure from last year, Wendy gave me a Peyton Manning action figure. Â Lee and Brittany gave me a remote control helicopter. Â It flies and crashes quite well around the house. Â Â Also because I don’t smell enough like David Beckham, I was given some of his cologne. Â Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Â To replace my old barbecue tools (that are showing some age), Wendy also got me a simple set of three barbecue tools which is all we really use.
The advantage to only periodically playing PS3 games is that I never own the new ones which means that Wendy can find me games for $10-$15 at Wal-Mart and it doesn’t matter since I haven’t played them. Â
I really had no more success than Lee in using my Leatherman today although no blood was spilled.
The photos can all be foundÂ here.
Today is being spent around the house setting up things, doing some reading, and then having a more traditional Christmas dinner. Â I had hoped to get get down to work but for the second day in a row, someone has swiped our power cords to the car which is frozen solid in this cold. Â We had planned to take a long walk downtown today with Mark’s new camera but as the song says, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Â Hopefully your Christmas is a good one and you are enjoying the time with family and friends as well.
Anil Dash has a great essay on the web that we have a decade ago versus the one we have today.
When you see interesting data mash-ups today, they are often still using Flickr photos because Instagram’s meager metadata sucks, and the app is only reluctantly on the web at all. We get excuses about why we can’t search for old tweets or our own relevant Facebook content, though we got more comprehensive results from a Technorati search that was cobbled together on the feeble software platforms of its era. We get bullshit turf battles like Tumblr not being able to find your Twitter friends or Facebook not letting Instagram photos show up on Twitter because of giant companies pursuing their agendas instead of collaborating in a way that would serve users. And we get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.
While the mobile web has been great, I miss the open web which seems to get a little smaller each day.