Interview with Patchou, creator of Messenger Plus!
Posted by absorbation on Wed 24 Mar 2010 (20:26 GMT) (10411 views)
With Messenger Plus! Live taking a new direction as Patchou expands his development team for Windows Live Messenger's most popular extension, we at Messenger Stuff thought we would take a more personal look into the man behind the code, Cyril Paciullo.

This is our second interview with Patchou, so you may want to listen to our first interview back in September 2006.


Could you tell us about your background? What degree did you study and at what university (if at all)?

For a first answer, that's gonna be disappointing :). When asked about this in French, I tend to say I have a "BAC minus 2". I left school when I was 17, the general scientific curriculum in France just did not interest me anymore. I was already spending more time reading about software development than I was studying. Luckily, I met a girl in Quebec, I moved to Canada and after a year of college, I started to work as a programmer, at the age of 18. Seeing where it brought me today, I'll never be able to thank my parents enough for letting me follow my own path so soon in my life.


What jobs have you had before you started developing Messenger Plus!?

I worked as a software developer and team leader for several companies in Montreal. My personal pet-projects (such as Messenger Plus!) also gave me the opportunity to work as a consultant for companies in the US. I have very good memories of my life as an employee, I found people in North America to be very easy to work with, nobody cares about your age, what you look like, etc, as long as you can do the job. Of course, that's my own experience, not everybody is so lucky, but the first thing you notice when coming from Europe is that your picture doesn't have to be stapled on your resume to help human resources do a first screening of potential candidates...


What is the most humbling moment you have had during your time developing Plus!?

You know, I think the real answer to this question can't be summed up with any given moment. When you're young and your software starts being used by so many people, it's easy to lose focus. The work itself taught me humility. That's the beauty of the internet: there's always somebody smarter than you, better than you, with brighter ideas, etc... you can't escape that fact when talking and working with so many people. Most of my testers aren't afraid to tell me that "this incredible idea I just had" just awfully sucks. If you don't deliver, people won't follow, I like the simplicity of that.


What originally attracted you to Messenger development?

I actually talked about that on my personal site recently (quick plug for patchou.com ;). I wanted to try my hand on some new technologies I had read about, and as MSN Messenger was the last thing I had installed on my computer, I thought it would be perfect to use it for my tests. I started creating and distributing patches for Messenger 3, and after a month or two, I decided to distribute the first version of Messenger Plus! on my Frontpage-template web site.


Where do you see Messenger in the next 5 years?

I wish I could be sure. There's so many things happening in the world of social networking nowadays. I even started to use Facebook more actively recently myself, after ignoring it for so long (I found it to be a good use of my time while my projects are compiling). From what I've seen in Messenger 2010, Microsoft has done a good job making sure Messenger keeps its appeal. At Yuna Software, we're also working on various other projects that will give more purpose to Messenger in the near future. One thing is sure: as everybody moves to online services, Messenger Plus! 5 will follow on the same path. There's no point fighting change, online tools is what most people expect nowadays and that's what they'll get from us.


What do you see yourself doing in 10 years from now?

Reading and playing all those games I bought and put on a shelf, waiting for the right moment to start them. Life goes by so fast, one day you're 20, the next day you're 40, with kids, and not enough stamina to play that latest Virtual Reality RPG that just came out on the PS5. I've always had fun with my work, I am an extremely lucky guy, but I'd like to have more free time for my hobbies. Let's sum-up by saying that the next companies I'll open will have to do without me installing Office for the accountant ;). I have many projects, there's just too many things I want to try. Ask me again in one or two years from now :).


What feature within Messenger Plus! are you most proud of any why?

Probably the most insignificant ones. It felt good when I was able to decode and re-encode UIB interface files in Messenger, a year ago. That's the kind of work that nobody really notices but that keeps the job interesting and motivating. There's always something to fix, improve or research to keep things working as they were before.


What other Messenger add-ons do you admire?

I've never really used any other add-on. That's always been part of my own policy of not copying features from others. If I don't install or read about another add-on, I'm sure I won't be tempted to copy parts of it, even unconsciously.


What is your relationship with Microsoft like, considering the issues you have had in the past?

I think it's good. The problems I've had in the past all had an explanation. I understand it can be difficult for a big company such as them to deal with a single guy like myself. People at Yuna Software are currently working actively to solidify our relationship with Microsoft and I'm pretty sure the situation can only get better. I didn't send them chocolate for Christmas this year though, but if anybody from Microsoft is reading this, know that no MVP = no chocolates. I'll reconsider if you do the same... life is full of tough choices.


What do you want from Windows Live Messenger 2010?

Me? No-thing. Nothing at all, keep the code as it was in Messenger 2009, don't modify anything that's used by Messenger Plus! and I'll be the happiest of developers this year. Seriously, I'm expecting as much social networking interoperability as possible in the next version. The only thing that was really missing in the core product was tabbed chatting and they apparently added it for the next version already (say bye to the same option in Messenger Plus!, hope it served you well all these years).


Do you have any interesting facts about yourself that the community may not know?

Facts about myself, there are plenty. Facts that are interesting, not that much... I always share parts of my life with people on the forum, and more recently on my blog. I can share something else very cool with you though, that I learnt recently on Mythbusters (a show on Discovery Channel). Did you know that you can construct a whole boat out of duck tape and a bunch of metal tubes? For a couple of hundred bucks, they were able to build a complete sailing boat, use it on the water with moderate wind for an hour, and the boat performed as well as a real one. You can even create a read full-size canon with that stuff. Pretty incredible.


Turnaround? Is Messenger Plus! back on track?
Posted by absorbation on Sun 21 Feb 2010 (22:20 GMT) (9014 views)
It has been a tough month for the Messenger Plus! community, with news the software has a new distributor and that its developer Patchou now only maintains a limited role. After weeks of unanswered emails and issues about poor relationships with the new developer Yuna Software, there appears to have been a crucial turning point that may mean our these worries are not valid.


"Back to the roots ... for a fresh start"

This was the title of a post Patchou made to his community on Thursday, where he addressed the concerns of its members who feel that the software has taken a turn in the wrong direction. Patchou has since attempted to reassure his users and had some good news to tell:

I'm back in charge of things. That means you can ask me questions, like you did before (and I'll take too much time to answer some of them, as I did before ). That also means that software development is back on track, with proper releases, documented changes in the change log.



Although Yuna Software is still present and the current distributor of Messenger Plus! Live, its overseeing powers have been reduced. Patchou is sovereign again, which is a great thing. Add to this that there with be several new developers working on Plus! may mean more features and a smaller timeframe between releases.

Patchou has changed his avatar of the forums to one he used when developing Messenger Plus! 3 as a reflection on returning to his roots.


Willz leaves skinning

Following from our post on the decline of Messenger skinning, Willz has told the Messenger Plus! community that he intends to leave skinning due to time constraints and creative differences between Yuna Software. Although he did suggest if improvements were made, he would return again. Nevertheless it is still a blow for skinning as there will no doubtedly be less activity from someone who has done much to keep the skinning community alive in recent years.

Read Patchou's full announcement


A Call for the Messenger Plus! Community
Posted by mynetx on Wed 17 Feb 2010 (17:20 GMT) (6778 views)
Are you among those who are using the Windows Live Messenger extension Messenger Plus! Live? Please read this message thoroughly, it is directed toward you.

Messenger Plus! Live: Logo, Fantasia version

Originally started as a personal project of its creator Cyril Paciullo (known as Patchou), Messenger Plus! has many lovers around the world. Truly, a vivid community has developed around it, where people meet to talk about the software, develop scripts for more features, as well as skins for changing Messengerís visual appeal. Iím sure that you have tried out the one or another script or skin, too. For a program such as Messenger Plus!, its community is an important part.

The role of Yuna Software

With Cyril having invested years of his life into the development of the add-on, some months ago he felt that it was about time to involve more people. This would give him more freedom and allow the software to meet the requirements better that are set by a user base of 62 million users. By that time, Cyril made the company official that he had founded years ago, Yuna Software. That also meant investors came in who currently have the majority of the share in the company.

Sadly, in recent times things start to go wrong with Messenger Plus!. Yuna Software was keeping silent about everything they did. They set up their offices silently. They talked with sponsors silently. They published new Plus! versions, you guessed it, silently. Eventually, everybody within the community became suspicious about this silence. They tried to introduce a community manager, but it is not proved yet if the manager will be able to break the silence that Yuna Software is holding.

The effects that this development might have on Messenger Plus as well as on the community are immense, as Yuna Software does not seem to care much about the user base. In the worst case, Plus! will become so ad-bloated and uninteresting that it will lose most of its users. Users like you.

There is a way

What can we do to help that Messenger Plus! stays what it is? Messenger Plus!ís original creator, Cyril Paciullo, tells us:

Email support@yunasoftware.com if you have any issue. All the emails are forwarded to the appropriate people.


What could such a mail contain? Here are some ideas for you.
  • Tell Yuna Software why you are using Messenger Plus!
  • Why did you originally use it?
  • Has Messenger Plus! become better over time? How so?
  • How did you learn about the software? From a friend?
  • How would you feel if there were no scripts nor skins anymore?
  • Would you like advertisements integrated into Messenger Plus?
  • Send your personal message to support@yunasoftware.com.
  • (If you want, send me a copy [CC to yuna@mynetx.net] that I can archive, but thatís up to you.)
Remember: This is not a call to request new features for Messenger Plus!, but a call to convince Yuna Software that listening and communicating its community ó thus breaking the silence, permanently ó is as important as setting up development roadmaps.

You are part of what makes Messenger Plus! successful.
It is up to you what its future is going to be like.




Patchou steps down as distributor of Messenger Plus! Live
Posted by absorbation on Wed 06 Jan 2010 (15:48 GMT) (48023 views)
With the new year comes change and the world of Messenger is no exception. Messenger Plus! Live is Windows Live Messenger's most popular add-on with over 60 million users. Recently Patchou has stepped down as distributor of the extension and now Messenger Plus! is privately developed by Yuna Software. This post should elucidate the details to what this may mean for the program's future.

Specifics are somewhat obscure, as Patchou himself created this company some years ago. What does appear to be the case is his control over development and management of the software and its community. Maybe this can be considered a buy-out of Messenger Plus! although this idea certainly lack clarity.

So what do we know? Well yesterday Patchou sent out a lengthy email to his beta tester team to elaborate on the new developers role and sponsor strategies for his Messenger extension. It appears he will be developing the next milestone of the software (it is his code and he has the contextual knowledge of the Messenger API), however his control over the approach appears to have been narrowed.

I need all of you to understand that I am not personally associated with Messenger Plus! anymore.



This simple statement summarizes the situation at hand and although Patchou can't explain the reasons why in explicit detail for legal reasons, it is important to understand Messenger Plus! Live is no longer Patchou's project and will be taking on a new direction.



A snowball effect?

The reaction within the Messenger community has been understandably negative. Patchou has established the largest MSN/ Windows Live Messenger community and this situation coupled with its decline in recent years may lead it to abscond altogether. It is Messenger Plus! that is responsible for the new acceleration of skin and script developers as well as establishing some household names within the Messenger community. Willz has since expressed concern over whether to continue developing skins:

At the moment things aren't really crystal clear so I can't really 100% judge the situation. But there have been recent developments (ones that I choose not to disclose) which have started to make me doubt that I will continue to skin in 2010.




Patchou has established the largest Messenger community and this situation coupled
with its decline in recent years may lead it to abscond altogether


I too have noticed a decline in Messenger developers. Similar websites to ours have either been closed or neglected and to be honest we face similar problems. The threat of substitute services such as social networking websites has led to a diminution to the popularity of IM in general (with the exception of online web messengers). I personally find it laborious to find the time for Messenger Stuff as within the past as do my admins. It may be a despondent fact to face but the Windows Live Messenger community has been experiencing a piecemeal downturn for years.


This could however be a great thing

Looking to a more optimistic side, this could mean great things for Messenger Plus! Live. With a dedicated team of developers, more features can be implemented and the time-frame between releases could be shortened. We have yet to see what Yuna Software has to offer, so lets presume the best and judge them on their results, it could be the thing the Messenger community needs.



Patchou tells users the story of Messenger Plus!
Posted by absorbation on Wed 23 Dec 2009 (17:02 GMT) (15061 views)
Messenger Plus! Live is the most popular and successful add-on for Windows Live Messenger which has had a long and fruitful history. It is responsible in an indirect way for the start of Messenger Stuff, as it was the Messenger Plus! community that led me to know more about MSN Messenger when I joined it back in February 2005. So I thought I would forward Patchou's somewhat long, yet interesting read into the story of Messenger Plus!

Read the Messenger Plus! Story


Patchou had this to say to his users and supporters within the Messenger community:

Thank you all, one last time, for all the support you've given me for such a long time. It's been a terrific ride and I hope it will continue on the same direction for many years to come. I wrote this text as much for visitors to read it as I wrote it for myself so thank you for your time and take care of yourselves.



Guardian interviews Patchou and other programmers about adware
Posted by absorbation on Fri 30 Jan 2009 (18:48 GMT) (2938 views)
The Guardian is a paper I read everyday, before school, with a coffee, with my friends. During a free period I went online to research into an essay and clicked into the technology section, where I found an article on the Messenger Plus! Live creator, Patchou. Btw, I want to make it clear my life does not involve around being an old man, reading newspapers and drinking coffee, I do have real fun too.

Patchou created controversy some years ago when he was awarded a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) award for his contribution to MSN Messenger. However, it was soon revoked when Microsoft community members continuously highlighted the optional adware program included in his add-on. The capitalist approach to creating software has raised debate, and the article looks deep into the issue. The author then gets the opinions of similar programmers, including the creators of Stuffplug and MessengerDiscovery Live.

But this is a man who has also outraged millions. His sin? A Faustian pact with dark forces responsible for distributing adware, those pop-up windows that torture PC users the world over. Messenger Plus! Live comes bundled with a "sponsor's program", which the unwary install unwittingly on their machines. They are then subjected to messages urging them to buy insurance, take out credit cards, play poker or download ringtones. To his opponents this breaks a sacred code of geek ethics and the two sides engage in furious online debates. Supporters say Patchou has provided a brilliant piece of software free to millions of people and the adware is harmless; critics call him "a scam artist making money off gullible young Live Messenger users".



Read the full article at the Guardian website (highly recommended)


StuffCast Episode 1: Patchou joins us for an exclusive interview!
Posted by absorbation on Sat 16 Sep 2006 (20:34 GMT) (3521 views)
Finally, after what seems forever, we have released Messenger StuffCast! StuffCast is a weekly podcast for you to download about MSN, Windows Live Messenger and technology in general. It is hosted by Anileator, Valspy and Vaccination, who will be providing you with a sum up of the weekly news as well as reviewing new Messenger add-ons and tools.

To kick off the show we have an exclusive interview with Patchou who discusses his infamous software, Messenger Plus!. He talks about developing his software and how it has evolved over the years. Patchou also gives his views on the new Windows Live Messenger 8.1 and Windows Vista RC1.

The podcast will arrive every Sunday, summing up the past week of news in the world of Messenger. Shows last half hour each, making it quick and simple to catch up with Messenger. So what are you waiting for? Download, listen and enjoy StuffCast today!

I would like to thank all my presenters especially Valspy who helped get the project started.

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