MSN Chat

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MSN Chat was the Microsoft Network version of IRCX (Internet Relay Chat extensions by Microsoft), which replaced Microsoft Chat, a set of Exchange-based IRCX servers first available in Windows 98 Second Edition's Comic Chat client, although Comic Chat was not required to connect.


* 1 A Brief history of MSN Chat
* 2 Versions
* 3 Third Party Applications
* 4 Notable MSN Chat Features
* 5 Authentication
o 5.1 GateKeeper and GateKeeperPassport
o 5.2 NTLM
* 6 User levels
* 7 Similar Services
* 8 Closure
* 9 References

[edit] A Brief history of MSN Chat

Client Compatibility

According to the MSN Chat website, You needed the following to use the MSN Chat Service.

* Windows 95 or later
* Internet Explorer 4.0 or later OR;
* Netscape Navigator 4.x

The Microsoft Network Chat Control was developed as an ActiveX Component Object Model Object. ActiveX, being a Microsoft technology provided limited compatibility for other products. The other major platforms beside Internet Explorer that MSN Chat was supported on, was Netscape Navigator and MSNTV (formerly known as WebTV). To ensure the MSN Chat network was only being connected to by authorized clients, Microsoft created and implemented a SASL based Security Service Provider authentication package known as GateKeeper. This used a randomized session key to authorize users not using the Microsoft Passport system. Microsoft used another SSP known as GateKeeperPassport, that worked from the same method but required certain attributes related to the user's account.

How users were able to overcome the "Authentication Challenge"

There have been various methods through the use of mIRC to access the MSN Chat Network. Most of the methods were through the use of the MSN Chat Control itself, yet others were more complicated.

In the beginning, shortly after the move from Microsoft Chat, the MSN Chat Network could be directly connected to through any IRC Client to on port 6667. Perhaps because of abuse or other factors, such as the desire to authenticate users based on their Microsoft Passport, Microsoft implemented GateKeeper and GateKeeperPassport, and integrated both into their chat control. The weakness of GateKeeper and the fact the early MSN Chat Controls (1.0 - 3.0) had public functions for doing GateKeeper authentication seemed to indicate Microsoft wanted third parties to be able to access their network as before, but they wanted to be able to control automated abuse. In any event, these public functions allowed normal IRC clients to authorize themselves.

With the release of the MSN Chat Control 4.0, the public functions were removed. Users found a way to authorize by a "Proxy Method", forcing the Chat Control to bridge connections between mIRC and the Chat Network.

With the release of the MSN Chat Control 4.2 and later, they blocked this proxy method by blocking connections the network.

[edit] Versions

The versions of MSN Chat were designed from IRC1 through to IRC8, Even with the newer versions, MSN Chat still had the possibility to replicate older MSN Chat versions by issuing the IRCVERS command.

* IRC1 -
* IRC2 -
* IRC3 -
* IRC4 -
* IRC5 -
* IRC6 -
* IRC7:
o MSN Chat introduces profile icons, Profile icons indicated if the member had a profile, gender (if known), and if the user had a picture
* IRC8:
o As MSN Chat had now become a Subscription Only (Premium) service, This introduced extra user and channel modes. The channel mode 'S' was added to indicated that only subscribers could talk. The user mode 'B' (to indicate the user was subscribed) and O (to indicate the user was not subscribed) were added. With the exception of Official MSN Staff. It was impossible for a user with the mode "O" to chat in a channel with the Channel Mode "S".
o Update to the GateKeeper Authentication method (known as the "4.5 Auth", due to the MSN Chat Control 4.5 being the first to implement it). It was a slight change, that added the value taken from the Server Parameter (before the ":" (if one is present)) to a MD5 Checksum.

[edit] Third Party Applications

The use of third party applications on the MSN Chat Network, were not prohibited, although un-supported.

Third party applications were required to use the same Authentication Methods as the MSN Chat Control.

The second change was the major part, Allowing the Chat Control to bridge the connections between the Client and MSN Chat Service.

The GateKeeper Authentication Algorithm was released to the public by "zmic". This allowed clients of different operating systems to connect to the MSN Chat Network.

[edit] Notable MSN Chat Features

* Webchat Using MSN's Chat Control
* Chat Nicknames
* Profiles
* Chatroom Creation
* Emoticons
* ChatRoom Listings
* User Created Rooms
* MSN Created Rooms
* MSN WebTV Chats
* Celebrity Chats
* Adult Chats, Moderate Content Chats, All Aged Chats
* Integration with MSN Groups

[edit] Authentication

[edit] GateKeeper and GateKeeperPassport

GateKeeper is a SASL Authentication type and is used by the MSN Chat control as a means of Authentication between the MSN Chat Control and the Server. As specified in the IRCX Draft, The client sends a string using the prefix "I" for initial and then the client and server will attempt to authenticate. The GateKeeper mechanism is not publicly documented.

GateKeeperPassport is the same system, But uses parameters supplied by the HTML webpage to log you into a personal account.

[edit] NTLM

Little is known about the role of NTLM authentication on MSN Chat. It is assumed that it was only used by MSN Chat staff to authenticate, and that they authenticated through Microsoft's Active Directory, either because they were connected directly to Microsoft's network, or because they were connecting via a Virtual Private Network.

At least one MSN Chat staff member has claimed to have used the "PASS" command to login. This is not the same command as typing "/pass" in the MSN Chat Client (which was used to become an Owner/Host of a channel.

There is proof that MSN Chat Administrators used the NTLM protocol through the MSN Chat Admin Client, which was leaked to the public, and bears many similarities to the Microsoft Comic Chat client.

[edit] User levels

MSN Chat had the following user levels:


* Administrator (Admin)
* System Operator Manager (Sysop Manager)
* IRC operator (Sysop)
* Guide (Guide)
* Bot (Bot)


* Owner
* Host
* Participant
* Member

[edit] Similar Services

There are many chat networks attempting to simulate the service that was provided by the Microsoft Network, which use the "MSN Chat Control".

These simulation chat networks are often referred to as "MSN Chat Clones".

MSN Chat Clones are generally small chat networks, which often rely on home-made IRC servers, or IRCX servers.

Many of the "MSN Chat Clones" are non-compliant and do not follow the RFC 1459 (IRC) or the "eXtensions to Internet Relay Chat" (IRCX) standards and often contain many bugs/exploits that may cause a Denial Of Service with The MSN Chat Control.

Many of the MSN Chat Clones started up directly after MSN closed it's services (2006), and additional networks have continued to spring up since then. There is speculation that these chat networks may have pulled potential subscribers away from MSN Chat, ultimately bringing on the demise of MSN Subscription Chat Services.

While the majority of MSN Clone Chat sites are free, most of them rely on adverts to provide a small income. In addition, some of the clones have begun to charge, or allow for donations.

The legality of sites offering the MSN Chat Control has been in question for some time due to many "Clone Sites" hosting the Chat Control. The Chat Control download is publicly available by Microsoft to download at [1].

[edit] Closure

On August 31, 2006 Microsoft announced that MSN Chat would no longer be provided. On October 16, 2006 MSN Chat shut down their servers at about 11:30 a.m. EST. The service closed because MSN no longer deemed it profitable to run as a subscription service and the decision to close it was said to be based on this fact.

The official announcement MSN Chat employees gave out was:

"Following a significant decline in new users and looking at the chat room industry on a whole, Microsoft determined that discontinuing this service would allow us to focus on providing an even better online experience to the broadest set of Microsoft communication services customers."

Roughly 20 minutes before MSN Chat closed, the Sysops and Guides sent broadcast messages to every room, with brief messages such as Thank you and how they enjoyed working there. Here are some of the broadcast messages they sent prior to closing:

Broadcast message from MSN Chat: Thank you all for a wonderful 10 years. I wish you all the best. My MSN memories of the hosts and chatters will always be close to my heart! Vickie/Vickie5/Sysop_vsi

Broadcast message from MSN Chat: Pleasure knowing you all these years, from Sysop_RB, hope to see you again soon … If you want to post where you will be going to chat, you can do it in this group: …….. opps I meant to whisper that, darn mouse hit the wrong button again

Broadcast message from MSN Chat: Guide_Valerie wants to say - It's been a pleasure and a wonderful experience working with MSN. I am very sad to see it go and I'll miss all of the users and staff. Please take care, be well, be safe, be happy, and hang tight to all of our MSN memories.

This is the order of MSN Chat going offline:

Firstly, the MSN Chat website went down, and the domain was re-directed to

The Directory server went offline

The Group servers went offline

Then the chat servers finally went offline.

[edit] References

* MSN Chat (Now diverts to MSN Groups)
* MSN Chat Team
* MSN Editorial Team
* MSN Chat Administration Tools

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