Once upon a time, internet chat rooms were pages of text that you had to ‘refresh’ to see a new message, and anyone could intrude on. Fast forward to today, and instant messaging gives us our own private chat rooms (or are they private?) with only the people we want to communicate with (if we select the right settings). There are many pros and cons of instant messaging, and I for one am a believer that it can benefit businesses, if done properly (i.e. securely).
My main gripe about the likes of MSN Messenger (or Live Messenger, as the latest version is called), is that because it is a free Microsoft product, it’s damn hard to get any help from Microsoft if it doesn’t work. Case in point are recurring sign in problems with errors like “the service is temporarily unavailable” when we damn well know it’s not. These are frustrating for the resident teenagers of the household, not to mention the growing number of businesses that are now relying on this medium for communication with staff and customers. Sign in error 8004888d alone will return over 4,000 results in Google, many of them being forum posts with multiple people experiencing the same problem and looking for an answer.
My shining ray of hope on Messenger problems is the Messenger Support Space (http://messenger-support.spaces.live.com/) which, amongst other things, lists this as a possible fix for that particular error code (all credit to them):
“This problem occurs if the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) libraries are corrupted. Please try the following steps in the order they appear to help resolve this issue:
1. Reregister the SSL security libraries.
To reregister each file in the following list, click Start, click Run, type the command, and then click OK.
REGSVR32 initpki.dll ——–Please note, when I typed this one in I did not recieve confirmation like all the others just the hour glass but it still works
2. After each command runs successfully, you will receive a “DllRegisterServer succeeded” message.
Wait until you receive this message before you run the next command
3. Restart the computer.
4. Try to sign in to Windows Live Messenger again.
And, from a poster named Alison …
Go to Start Menu-Run
Type in: regedit
Plus sign of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Plus sign Software
Plus sign Policies
Plus sign Microsoft
Plus sign System Certificates
Plus sign of Trusted Publisher
You will see a “safer key folder”
Delete that folder
Try to re-login to Windows Messenger.
(Relevant disclaimer here about you wandering around in the registry at your own risk and not blaming me if you really, really break something). I’m 100% sure of the changes I make to my registry settings – if I’m not, I don’t change them .. or I make sure I’ve got some way to undo any damage I cause.
Corrupt SSL libraries are an interesting discussion point in their own right because of how much impact they can have. Prior to the reregister fix above, I saw the strangest thing with MSN Messenger being extremely slow to accept the typed input of the username. SSL is also used when you try to do anything with a secure web page (e.g. online shopping and banking sites .. anything that wants to play as https://) and gets it’s claws into Windows Updates too. So, if you have corrupt SSL libraries, you may have problems with more than just messenger.
On the good side though, I’ve had a lot of experience with IBM’s secure collaboration tool (and my Microsoft friends are going to say that the corporate version of Live Messenger is even better). Instant messages fall nicely between the gap of not being as interruptive as a phone call (if you can ignore the blinking on your screen for a while) but being more interruptive than email (if you don’t live in your Inbox). Presence awareness is one of the major benefits with instant messaging programs, as you can see when the other person is at their computer and available to talk, without needing to phone or email them first. Corporate IM programs can embed this into email and other areas, so if you sent me an email yesterday, I can read it today and automatically see if you are online for me to talk to you about it. And, I love the fact that I can see when the other person is typing a response … I know I’ve got their attention and they haven’t left me to go and make a cup of coffee.
As I said before though, if you are talking ‘shop’ or credit card details over the free instant messaging programs … just be aware that “hack msn messenger” on google gives 191,000 results. Like email (yes, scary thought), instant messages zooming around the internet can be “sniffed” and read by someone else with enough knowledge.
So, embrace the possibilities of instant messaging for keeping in touch with people, but don’t let it give you a false sense of security. Only talk to people that you know and allow on your contact list (as it can also be used to transmit viruses). And don’t let it be the tool of choice for transmitting office gossip or telling your boss that you quit …. if you work in the same physical location, get up from your chair and go and talk to one another!!!