Fifteen years after it launched in 1999 Microsoft is killing off MSN Messenger, finally bringing an end to one of the oldest instant messaging clients on the net.

For most of the world, the plug was already pulled on MSN Messenger – or Windows Live Messenger as it was re-branded – in April last year, but mainland China has still had access to the service which will only be cut off on the 31st of October for them.

Microsoft is already prompting the Chinese users to switch across to its other, more feature rich messaging service Skype, which it bought in 2011 for $8.5 billion and has begun to integrate into the rest of its products like Microsoft Office. To encourage the changeover Microsoft is offering $2 (R21) in Skype credit to anyone who makes the switch.

When Microsoft released MSN Messenger, it was in response to its rival AOL’s AIM Messenger. (Microsoft’s engineers famously having reverse engineered the login authentication of its rival platform to allow MSN users to log into AIM and chat with their contacts in MSN Messenger.)

At its peak in 2009, MSN Messenger had over 330 million active users which would make it around the same size as three Snapchats, one and a half Instagrams, half a WhatsApp or about 20% of the size of Facebook.

BBC technology writer Dave Lee has written an obituary for MSN Messenger.

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 work computers the world over.

“It’s like MSN,” office workers say, “…just not as fun.”

MSN Messenger is survived by Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Snapchat, Skype, Google+ and Instagram.

[Image – Jay Malone on Flcikr (CC BY 2.0),Via – Forbes]