Here's how Microsoft tried to win the early instant messaging wars

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Here's how Microsoft tried to win the early instant messaging wars

The battle between modern chat services like LINE and WhatsApp is fierce, but it has nothing on the war between Microsoft and AOL (Engadget's parent company) at the turn of the century. Former Microsoft developer David Auerbach has revealed that his MSN Messenger team fought hard for compatibility with AOL Instant Messenger in the summer of 1999, all in the hopes of attracting some converts. At one point, Auerbach was in a daily struggle -- AOL would break MSN support by the morning, and he'd have a fix in place by the evening.

A stalemate came relatively quickly: AOL introduced a security flaw in August that Microsoft couldn't work around, forcing the two services to remain separate. Of course, we know in hindsight that the conflict was for nought as chat shifted from PC software to mobile apps and social networks. However, the story shows that Redmond was determined to lead the instant messaging space from the word go -- its acquisition of Skype was really just the culmination of efforts that began more than a decade earlier.

[Image credit: Nicki Varkevisser, Flickr]

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