What’s the status of MSN Groups? Are indications of its demise “a hoax”?

Hmm I seem to have created a bit of a stir over at MSN Groups.  When I posted this week on the Spaces worldwide numbers, I mentioned Windows Live Groups, and it was picked up at Managers Helping Managers, an MSN Group for Group managers.  They’re concerned (can’t blame them, really) about my reference to “all indications are that it will soon begin a migration of MSN Groups into a new Windows Live Groups“:

This situation is a repeat of the “secret” Adult Groups closure/moving which was also accidentally found out about on the internal MSN/Live website and which MSN denied right upto the last minute of the Adults Groups closure/moving.

(Historical note: MSN Groups transferred all “adult” groups to the independent 3rd party World Groups in 2005, and then shut down all adult groups on November 28, 2005). 

So the hardworking folks at MHM contacted MSN Groups Technical Support, and after being escalated they received this reply:

My name is Dolores and I am a Subject Matter within MSN Groups department. Your e-mail was escalated to me and I would like to assist you with your concern about the information you saw that MSN Groups is closing down and that it will be changed to Windows Live Groups.

I realize how important MSN Groups is to you. I appreciate that you have written to us regarding this.

Joyce, the posting you saw is a hoax. MSN Groups is not closing down and Microsoft has no plans of decommissioning MSN Groups at this time.

Microsoft has no control over email messages, Web sites, or postings that imitate company trademarks, logos, or copyrighted materials. The sources of these hoaxes only attempt to spread malicious rumors about Microsoft and may sometimes even encourage people to divulge personal information willingly. This information is frequently used maliciously or fraudulently. 

To avoid the spread of these types of information, we advise you to delete any email you receive, or disregard postings on MSN Groups regarding this rumor.

Any important announcement from Microsoft about MSN Groups will be posted at the MSN Groups homepage (http://groups.msn.com).

On the other hand, it is true that Windows Live Groups is coming in the future, but it is a separate product. As of this time, we do not have any information yet about the features of Windows Live Groups.

We appreciate your continued support as we strive to provide you with the highest quality service available. Thank you for using MSN Groups.

Sincerely,

Dolores

Subject Matter Expert

MSN Groups Technical Support

So OK, I would prefer that you don’t delete my emails, and am not too happy about being labeled as “only attempt(ing) to spread malicious rumors about Microsoft”, but whatever.  Now here’s where the fun begins.  If you recall, MSN closed MSN Chats on October 16, 2006.  Well someone at MSN Groups emailed Tech Support three months before then, too, and received this reply:

Thank you for writing to MSN Groups Technical Support.

My name is ________ and I apologize for the delay in responding to your email.

I understand that you need to know if it is true that MSN Groups chat rooms will be closed down.

_____, the posting you saw is a hoax. MSN is not closing down Groups chat rooms and Microsoft has no plans of decommissioning MSN Groups at this time.

Microsoft has no control over email messages, Web sites, or postings that imitate company trademarks, logos, or copyrighted materials. The sources of these hoaxes only attempt to spread malicious rumors about Microsoft and may sometimes even encourage people to divulge personal information willingly. This information is frequently used maliciously or fraudulently. 

To avoid the spread of these types of information, we advise you to delete any email you receive, or disregard postings on MSN Groups regarding this rumor.

Any important announcement from Microsoft about MSN Groups will be posted at the MSN Groups homepage (http://groups.msn.com).

Thank you for using MSN Groups.

Sincerely,

(Italics mine, showing the duplication between emails)

Doesn’t leave you with a sense of security that MSN Groups will be around much longer, does it?

Now while we are expecting Windows Live Groups any time now, and indeed our friend Delores above is as well, we are not at all sure of what will become of MSN Groups.  Will there be a migration?  Certainly when Windows Live Groups appears there will be some from MSN Groups who may want to use it, and will migrate.  While we don’t have any insider information about the future of MSN Groups, we do have a list of thoughts:

  • Windows Live has been making a serious effort to clean up its focus.  Does it make sense to fire up WL Groups and continue on with MSN Groups? 
  • Windows Live revamped Hotmail, in large part to clean up the code base.  Certainly  MSN Groups must be getting a little rickety by now? 
  • Maintaining a separate code base and doubling developer and management costs for little or no gain is a dubious proposition. 
  • According to Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, MSN Groups has some 8 million unique visitors per month, but wouldn’t the bulk of those numbers look better attached to Windows Live Spaces?
  • Groups would seem to fall under The Windows Live mantra – “to connect and share anywhere”, much more than MSN’s concentration on commercial content.

We really don’t know what the plans are for MSN Groups.  In the long run, it probably doesn’t look good.  Will a closure take place soon, or further on down the Windows Live roadmap, or indeed, at all?  Your guess is as good as ours, so place your bets in the comments.