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Microsoft to Messenger users: Turn off the lights, the party's over. Well, it soon will be, anyway. Microsoft has begun emailing the more than 100 million Messenger users in the wild to inform them that it's pulling the plug on its instant messaging service on March 15, 2013. At that time, they'll be forced to upgrade to Skype, provided they want to keep all their contacts intact.
"On 15th March 2013 we are retiring the existing Messenger service globally (except for mainland China where Messenger will continue to be available) and bringing the great features of Messenger and Skype together," Microsoft stated in an email. "Update to Skype and sign in using a Microsoft Account (same as your Messenger ID) and all your Messenger contacts will be at your fingertips. You’ll be able to instant message and video chat with them just like before, and also discover new ways of staying in touch with Skype on your mobile and tablet."
Microsoft acquired Skype nearly two years ago for $8.5 billion, but hasn't really done anything major with it since then. By retiring Messenger and migrating users over to Skype, Microsoft has a chance to grow its service and sell premium Skype features to a much wider audience. This has been the plan since at least November 12 when Microsoft first confirmed its plans to shut down Messenger, saying it would happen sometime in the first quarter of 2013.
Once March 15 rolls around, Messenger users will no longer be able to sign in to their accounts. A notification will appear and users will be taken through an installer flow to install Skype and automatically uninstall Messenger at the same time, Microsoft said.