Rob Hardy / Silhouette Staff

Although you fell out of touch a while back, you may not know that a kind-of-friend of yours has officially signed out of your life for good recently. This kind-of-friend is not really a friend in the traditional sense, but in some ways was so much more, as it connected us to people in more distant places with whom we shared something in common. Through good times and bad, it helped shape our ideas of a more global world as we figured out our place in it and was always there waiting, with its simple but inviting interface ready to connect us on our journey.

If there was one symbol of the previous decade, its familiar sounds and amenably faceless mascot might very well be it. I am talking about MSN Messenger. During the first quarter of 2013, it is being phased out throughout most of the world, with plans to disengage it entirely in the very near future for the remaining territories.

I don’t know why, but this news hit me with a bit of nostalgic sadness. MSN, as it was most commonly referred to, changed the way we communicated. It is not so far back in time that its memory invokes true retro wonder, but its heyday is now old enough that soon we will be very much struck by how primitive it perhaps may have seemed.

MSN was keen on frequently updating itself with new versions – its initial look and feel differed greatly from its final one. That said, I am not sure why people seemed to begin abandoning it as other social media debuted about five years ago. But therein lies the rub – had MSN stuck around, it would eventually have become unrecognizable and altogether different from the basic format which launched its popularity. Any decades-old business goes through so many transformations that it usually has little in common with the times and ideas which initially inspired its existence.

Don’t worry, though; Microsoft is apparently thrilled to announce that they are merging with Skype. Feel free to join in the celebration and do a few cartwheels, too. Now you can enjoy all the benefits of Skype even if you never wished to sign up for that service. And while we’re on the subject, Hotmail is also being phased out, which was just announced about a week ago.

So if you are also partial to that word following your email handle, keep your old address because it seems you won’t be able to create any new ones. But as of now existing addresses will remain intact as the popular mail service switches to the new entity known as Outlook.

More could be said about this but I will end off by reminiscing about the ways that MSN infused our lives. Think of the catchy nicknames people often switched to according to mood or status, which contrasted sharply with the other group who stubbornly never did so and preferred to always leave the same names such as ‘Peter’ or ‘Thor’ – easy to find like a lighthouse in the harbour. A couple of times I wrote “Virus Alert!” to give some people a good-natured scare whenever I signed in (LOL).

One has to wonder why today’s messenger services are forcing us to switch over to models that include so many bells and whistles.

Does it really enhance our lives to constantly update the extensive profiles some of us fashion in our virtual realities? And are we okay with all this information being acquired by the next company which swallows up those we have accounts with as mere subsidiaries? Does anyone on their deathbed think about things like online features?

One can consider that MSN was the best of both worlds. It allowed us to communicate simply and essentially without over-sharing and providing a thousand ways to waste our time. If it continued on, we could have still used it as a mobile app. But those days are gone. Some may not care, and others have stronger opinions. But no one asked us, so we’ve now heard our last notification alert as ‘MSN has just signed out’.

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