Patchou's Cabana

The personal blog of Patchou

The Messenger Plus! Story Page 3

Features and Statistics

Since day 1, the main attraction of Messenger Plus! has been its features. While, along the years, several “I’m cool” add-ons were created for MSN Messenger, Messenger Plus! kept on focusing on the “I’m useful” sector. Of course, fun stuff were also added like Emotion Sounds, colored nicknames and messages, transparency settings… even a hidden easter-egg game featuring pirate duels! Still, it’s features like Tabbed Chats, Chat Logging, Event Viewer and Notifications, or Personalized Statuses that got most users to re-install Messenger Plus! right after re-installing Messenger on their new computer. Many features were created with a set-it-and-forget-it design, inspired by the fact that too many software nowadays tend to scream “I’m here!!!” whenever possible. Features like Messenger Lock (previously known as Boss Protection, created for my own use) are barely visible but I wish I knew how many times it saved people who were chatting at school or at work instead of doing their assigned tasks .

Logo made of 250 postcards

Overall, more than a hundred features and options were made available in Messenger Plus! 3­. While new options were added, existing ones kept on being improved and modified. In addition to being my work, Messenger Plus! was still a great learning tool. The creation of an official Beta Testers team also helped a lot in some areas. Testers generally have no problem telling me that the fantastic new interface I just created for something just plainly sucks. It’s easy to ignore one person but you can’t go against a group of people who make fun of you in a forum ;-) . Overall, it all contributed to make me a better software developer, a better man even. At the same time, more and more people were still installing Messenger Plus!, reaching 10 million active users in the end of 2005. The same month, the count of Emotion Sounds sent by users since activation of this feature reached the incredible number of 1 billion sounds and no less than 5 dedicated servers were needed to make it work 24/7.

On the online side of things, the newly translated web site helped gather more people and I enjoyed posting freshly updated stats in the news section whenever I had some good ones. Some were very surprising, especially those related to translations. As the internet itself tends to be mostly written in English, Messenger Plus! was always developed in that language. Despite being born in France, the French translation was not even created by myself! Statistics gathered in the summer of 2005 showed that English was only used by 21% of the users, French coming in second with 20% and Spanish in third with19%. These stats showed the importance of translations in the software world and clearly indicated that, contrary to popular belief, a majority of people do not speak English, at least not well enough to fully use and understand a computer program. Right-to-left languages like Arabic and Hebrew were not forgotten either. It was actually pretty interesting to work with these languages (at the time, “interesting” wouldn’t have been the word I would have used though) as they required a more complete understanding of the Windows’ GDI system to apply the proper alignment everywhere.

Life outside of software development

The year 2005 was very productive, with lots of versions being released, including another major version labelled 3.50 that could easily have been identified as 4.00 if marketing had influenced my reasoning (and I’m glad to admit it rarely does). This year, attached to the end of 2004, also brought a new concept to my daily routine: travels! Microsoft France invited me in Paris (where I had the pleasure of meeting several people like Dwergs from mess.be), the first official Messenger Plus! meeting was organised in France, and Microsoft invited me again the following summer, this time at their headquarters in Redmond WA (and made me an MSN Butterfly! yes, believe it or not, Microsoft had an internal group of testers/techies called “butterflies”; we were dissolved in 2009). Meeting so many people related to Messenger or Messenger Plus! was a great experience. Seeing pictures I took at the time, I now realize that lots of those Messenger contacts became real friends over the years and I’m still talking to them on a regular basis. Microsoft’s offices were great too, I certainly wouldn’t mind going back there for work some day. As for Messenger Plus! meetings, it’s always been something hard to explain to “outsiders”. Why do we gather together? what do we do? those are questions without real answers. It’s always just been about meeting and chatting in the real world, walking around a new city, etc… nothing more but still, a very enjoyable experience each and every time.

In August 2005, a petition was created to exclude Messenger Plus! from the list of software detected by the new Microsoft Anti-Spyware software. At the time, Microsoft has bought a product called Giant AntiSpyware and simply changed its name for redistribution purposes. That same program is now called Windows Defender and is bundled with Windows. Unfortunately for us, this program was wrongly detecting Messenger Plus! as being potentially dangerous and the many requests that were sent to Microsoft about it didn’t help. For that reason, a petition was put online and after just 4 weeks, more than 400,000 legitimate signatures were gathered and sent to Microsoft on 10,137 pages of printed text (50Kg of recycled paper).In a matter of days, the problem suddenly got solved and I still have my users to thank for that :-) .

Microsoft offices in Redmond Packages sent for the 2007 contest Fantasia Festival in 2007

In 2007, a much more pleasant event occurred and later on got transformed into a tradition: Messenger Plus! became one of the main sponsors of the Fantasia Festival. This movie festival, organized every year in Montreal (Canada), was and still is the biggest of its kind in North America. Anybody interested in Asian and horror movies gets tickets for one or more movies during summer, which is exactly what we offered on our site in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Every year, a specific movie was also sponsored and presented by the software, followed by a Messenger Plus! meeting at a nearby restaurant. If you’re interested, you can count on seeing me at the festival every year, and be sure I’ll do my best to continue to sponsor that excellent event.

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