Windows Live Messenger's demise is nearing, which means Microsoft will push Skype as the native Windows messaging on April 8, 2013. Even though you can import your contacts into Skype, many users are still unhappy about being forced to use Skype because of its limited features compared to Windows Live Messenger.
Many people prefer Windows Live Messenger because it is the default instant messaging client in Windows but there are a lot of good alternatives. Even though Messenger includes features like sharing photos and videos and customization options, the client itself is rather limited. While you can chat with friends on other services, connecting to other services isn't as streamlined as it could be.
Now with the use of the cloud to collaborate on documents, photo sharing, and productivity, Windows Live Messenger presents itself as something from the past. Nowadays, having a separate client isn't really necessary as many sites have included chat services and apps that aren't limited to Windows.
If you still need an instant messaging service to use to communicate with friends, there are a lot of options if you move away from Windows Live Messenger.
Chances are, if you use Windows Live Messenger, you connected it to Facebook. The popular social network released its own standalone Windows client that lets you chat with your Facebook friends and additionally gives you access to your news feed and notifications. Many people use Facebook as a means to communicate with their friends and you can easily share photos and files with your contacts through the service.
It's not uncommon for people to have multiple email addresses. Whether it be for work, personal, or spam, almost everyone has a Gmail account. With a Gmail account comes access to Google's various and useful services. Google's instant messaging services can be a little confusing and the company could be working on an unified solution for the future.
Generally, you can chat directly through Gmail with your email contacts with Google Talk. If you also use Google+, you can communicate with your Google+ Circles after you add them. Google+ also has Messenger which is connected directly in Google+. Both messaging apps allow for video calls. If you need to share something, you can use Google Drive to share files, video, and photos with the included free 5 GB of space.
For users coming from Windows Live Messenger, you're probably looking for a multi-platform client. Nimbuzz connects to Facebook, Twitter, ICQ, Google Talk, and Jabber. While it also connects to Windows Live Messenger, that will likely stop once the service is discontinued. The difference with Nimbuzz is that it's a client that logs into different services.
There is also a supporting mobile app so you can continue conversations through a device. While you can't share photos directly, you can share files with your contacts. It's not the best solution if you are looking to continue to chat with your Windows Live Messenger contacts however.
Pidgin is an interesting instant messaging client, primarily because it supports a lot of different chat networks. Pidgin is an open-source program that supports popular services like AIM, Google Talk, IRC, MSN, Yahoo!, and ICQ; but goes even farther with support for Sametime, Zephyr, Bonjour, SILC, XMPP, and more. Most of these other chat clients aren't used by most people, but Pidgin covers the majority of popular clients.
Pidgin also supports a lot of plugins for third-party services like Facebook and Steam. Other plugins add additional features for notifications, status updates, security, and interface tweaks also exist, but are not officially supported. As an open-source program, it is constantly getting additional plugins and development.
Windows Live Messenger is disappearing.
The discontinuation of Windows Live Messenger will happen on April 8, 2013. You will have to use Skype to continue to talk with your Windows Live Messenger contacts. The only other option is to move into another chat client on a different network because even if you install a new client, Microsoft will not support the Windows Live Messenger service and will focus its attention on Skype.
Facebook Messenger and Google Talk are two first party chat alternatives to Windows Live Messenger. Nimbuzz and Pidgin are two alternative clients so you can still chat with friends on other networks while you switch to another service. Otherwise, you have little choice but to accept Skype as your new chat service.