Engineering Messenger for real relationships

Piero Sierra, Group Program Manager for Windows Live messenger and Windows Live Mail, wrote a very lengthy article about how the team tries to make the Messenger (IM) experience more meaningful and natural.

Take for example the typing indicator, this little message “user is typing” tells you that your friend is still “talking” so you can wait for him to finish, just as in a face-to-face talk you’d let the other finish speaking before you answer. Another example of making a conversation more natural is the usage of emoticons, winks and nudges. Winks got added in 2005 and nowadays users exchange about 240 million winks a month. Quite a success I’d say!

But just how does the team measure their success? One of the things they track is the conversation length. A longer conversation indicates the conversation goes beyond a “Are you coming?” That’s not the only thing though, they also look at things like voice, video and photo sharing. Some numbers:

  • The average length of a Messenger session (a conversation) is 9-11 minutes
  • About 59% of sessions are over 5 minutes, with about 10% over 20 minutes long
  • 1.6 billion sessions per month are over 30 minutes long
  • People use Messenger to exchange over 380 million photos a month —over 4.5 billion photos a year (this is in addition to the tens of billions of photos people also share each month via Windows Live SkyDrive and Hotmail)
  • Messenger users have 230 million voice & video conversations per month
  • Average voice session length is about 18.2 minutes
  • Average video session length is about 13.3 minutes
  • 9% of video calls and 13% of voice calls are longer than 1 hour
  • Usage of international voice and video sessions differ geographically. Brazilians use voice & video only 13% of the time for international connections while users in other countries, such as Spain or Germany, use voice and video 50-75% of the time for long distance chats with friends and family.

Interesting! The ultimate representation of an actual conversation of course is to see and hear the person on the other end: enter Voice & Video chat. But there’s more…you can read the full story over at Inside Windows Live.