Live from the Web! Bring the Windows Live Messenger Experience to Your Web Applications
Windows Live Messenger is one of the central offerings nestled among a suite of products and services under Microsoft’s Windows Live brand. For years online chat has been progressively and swiftly revolutionizing how you communicate with your friends, family, coworkers, and businesses you deal with. It is the foundation of the original chat room concept and the heart of instant messaging applications. Online chat-also called instant messaging or just “IM”-connects people for one-to-one or group chat, for social networking purposes, or for business directives, such as enabling access to technical support, customer services, or sales. Now, Windows Live Messenger supports a rich set of features for Web applications through the Windows Live Messenger IM Control, the Windows Live Messenger Presence API, and the Windows Live Messenger Library. The collective features of these products go beyond the simplicity of a chat application, making it possible to embrace this new era of social networking by leveraging your built-in Windows Live network within any Web application.
Extending Windows Live Messenger features to the Web makes it possible for personal sites, community sites, and business applications to increase their reach and interactivity with visitors. For community sites such as your blog, or other social networking sites, this could mean sharing your online messenger presence so that visitors can easily contact you. You can also supply fully functional or completely customized Web-driven instant messaging features from your site or Web applications to enhance this interactive experience. You can apply the same ideas to business applications in the form of supplying technical support directly from the corporate site or interacting with other departments or personnel. In either case, an important benefit of Web-enabled Windows Live Messenger is that it allows visitors that don’t use Windows Live Messenger to interact with other Windows Live Messenger users, without installing the Windows Live Messenger Client.
The Windows Live Messenger IM Control provides a quick and easy way for non-developers to enable their presence on the Web and is particularly useful for chatting with anonymous visitors.
The new suite of offerings within the Windows Live Messenger family support these Web-enabled scenarios as follows:
- Windows Live Messenger IM Control: Enables Web applications to show the online presence of a Windows Live ID account to visitors and allows those visitors to interact with the account through a Web-based instant messaging control. This interaction can be anonymous or the visitor can identify themselves by name or by their Windows Live account.
- Windows Live Messenger Presence API: Enables site visitors to log in to their Windows Live ID account and enable Web applications to access their online presence. This facilitates non-anonymous interactions with the IM Control.
- Windows Live Messenger Library: Makes it possible to build Web applications that integrate with Windows Live Messenger with more granular control over the UI and underlying instant messaging features exposed to visitors.
While the IM control and presence API are the easiest to implement and do not require development experience, the Messenger Library provides a rich set of features that require developers to provide the UI and programmatically control all interactions with Windows Live Messenger. Each has their place in the community depending on the goals of your Web application. This article will explain when and how to incorporate the IM control, presence API, and Messenger Library in your Web applications-while discussing common scenarios where each are distinctly useful.
It’s All About Online Presence! Introducing the Windows Live Messenger IM Control and Presence API
The Windows Live Messenger IM Control was released in November 2007. This control is a fantastic addition to a blog, a Web site, or any other space on the Web where you want to communicate your online presence or allow visitors to communicate with you when you are signed-in to a Windows Live Messenger client. Visitors can communicate with you anonymously, by a specified name, or by first logging in to their Windows Live account and thus making it possible for you to add them to your contact list for future communications. The Windows Live Messenger Presence API compliments the IM control, released in December 2007. It lets you explicitly invite visitors to log in to their account and share their online presence so that your Web application can identify them. Both of these products are very easy for the non-developer to include on a Web page. The coming sections will explain how to work with the IM control, and then show you how to add value with the presence API.
Features of the IM Control
You can host the Windows Live Messenger IM Control on any Web page. This allows visitors to reach you when you are logged in to the Windows Live Messenger client application. Visitors can see your online presence and, when you are online, they can send messages through the IM control while you receive them at your messenger client. What’s particularly compelling about the IM control is that you can let anonymous visitors communicate with you-they don’t have to log in and they don’t have to have a Windows Live ID account. This is unlike the user experience with the messenger client, which requires all users to log in before they can send messages to one another. The IM control is perfect for enabling chat with visitors of your Web application to answer questions or discuss topics, without adding to your contact list. Since the IM control is Web-based, even non-messenger users can interact with you without installing the messenger client application to their machines.
You can share your online presence with the IM control in three different ways: a status icon, a button, or an IM window (see Figure 1). The status icon and button give you the freedom to preserve real estate on your Web page and still supply a way for visitors to chat with you. Visitors are presented with a new browser window when they click the status icon. The new window shows the full IM window ready to begin a chat session. If you are online, the IM window is enabled so that visitors can send messages, otherwise it is disabled. To set up, you will generate the appropriate HTML for the IM control according to the choice of online presence you prefer to share within your Web application.
Figure 1: From the Create HTML page in Web Settings you can configure the IM control’s appearance and copy the resulting HTML to any Web page. The Windows Live Messenger IM Control lets you share your presence as a status icon, a button, or by presenting an IM window.
The IM control is supported by IE 6, IE 7, and Firefox 2.0 on Windows or Mac OS. Aside from deciding how you would like to share your online presence with visitors, you can also personalize the control’s appearance and culture settings. When you generate the HTML for the control, you can choose a template to initialize font and color properties to match your Web application’s appearance. The control is also localized to 32 languages, so by simply setting a property you can adjust language presented to your visitors. This article will talk about the control HTML and related properties next.
By: Michele Leroux Bustamante
Michèle Leroux Bustamante is a Principal Architect with IDesign Inc., a Microsoft Regional Director, and an internationally known speaker and author. At IDesign Michèle focuses on designing scalable and secure architecture, Web services tools and technologies, and best practices for hosting 24x7 operations and services. Michèle is a member of the INETA (International .NET Association) Speakers Bureau and is .NET MVP for XML Web services. With her experience in Java technologies, Michèle also serves as a BEA Technical Director, advises the Web services track of SD, and is Program Advisor to the Web services program at UCSD Extension. Reach her at www.idesign.net or www.dotnetdashbaord.net.
By: Paul Birkbeck
Paul Birkbeck is Director of Software Development and Lead Architect at Multiplied Media Corporation (www.multiplied.com). At Multiplied Media, Paul leads the development effort for their flagship product, Poynt (www.mypoynt.com)-a multimedia local search service that leverages Windows Live Messenger as its primary delivery channel. Paul’s technology expertise lies in building large enterprise systems for the past 15 years, focusing primarily on Microsoft technologies. His current focus is in the Windows Live product suite including Messenger, Virtual Earth, and Search. Paul has his MCSD.NET and he recently started a new .NET User Group in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The collective features of the Windows Live Messenger IM Control, the Windows Live Messenger Presence API, and the Windows Live Messenger Library go beyond the simplicity of a chat application, making it possible to embrace this new era of social networking by leveraging your built-in Windows Live network within any Web application.