Changed webcam feature in Messenger—the in-depth explanation

Since a few days, I have the newest Windows Live version, Build 14.0.8117.416. Since I have this version, I cannot start simple webcam transmissions anymore… only video call works. Is that how it works in the new version?? If yes, that’s a really stupid change! Or is the problem located on my end??

Video call in Messenger 2009Questions like this keep increasing since an intermediate update for Windows Live Messenger 2009 has been published recently. What is it all about? When you want to send or view webcam in this upgraded version, you will launch a video call. This is a changed behavior, and people are quite confused about it.

Piero Sierra, Group Program Manager for Shared Data Experience, has posted the in-depth explanation why these changes to Messenger’s webcam functionality have been made:

There seems to be some confusion on the update to the webcam feature. Let me clarify that one-way video conversations are still very much supported. It is still absolutely possible to “share your video” with a relative abroad who does not have a video camera. Or see someone else’s webcam when you do not have one. Let me explain how you do this: Let’s say you do not have a video camera, and are chatting with a friend who does. In the chat window, click “Video” (or click the webcam icon next to your friend’s user tile). This will set up a one-way video call. You can then mute or unmute your audio by clicking the microphone. You can control your friend’s audio by clicking the speaker icon. Simple as that, and you still have the control. The inverse is also supported (where you have a webcam, and your friend does not).

Some background on what has changed:

In the past, we offered two choices to start a video conversation with someone. You could either click “Video Call” or select “Show my webcam.” Video Call is the full-featured option that includes two-way video and audio. It is how most people expect video calling to work. Show my webcam was a one-way feature, where you could show your webcam’s video to your friend, without audio. This caused a lot of confusion, and our data showed users would often click “Show my webcam”, only to be surprised they didn’t have audio, and couldn’t see their friend. They would then attempt to turn these on separately. Furthermore, the two features used a different video code-path which made switching between these scenarios hard, and also made it hard for the team to make quality & performance improvements to the scenario as a whole. In our latest update, we have simplified the command to just “Start Video Call”… If you have a webcam, but your friend does not, they will be able to see you and hear you, and you’ll be able hear them if they have a microphone. If you do not want to hear your friend, or do not want to share your audio, you can simply toggle the microphone icon next to your picture or the speaker icon next to your friend‘s picture. There are only really two aspects that are different: (1) it is no longer easy to hide your webcam’s feed if you have one enabled when you start a video call (you can still do this using the AV settings dialog). (2) You can no longer set up “webcam rings” with multiple people sharing silent video one-way. There are valid reasons to enable both of these scenarios, but their usage was very infrequent, and made both the user experience and the code overly complicated. This is why we have chosen to move forward with a simpler option. Please look for a post soon about our expanded video capabilities in Wave 4.

With these — amazingly explanatory, by the way! — thoughts in mind, can you now understand why webcam is working differently in Messenger from now on?


  1. Bring “show my webcam” back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. ZuZu thanks, i wrote them. Im really pissed from that, its SO STUPID!!! Its like when you cant use back door in car and you have to go on back seat with front door. RIDICULOUS!!!

  3. what is the point in taking off, one way webcam, it was working just fine, and everybody loved it, now Windows live messenger has been spoiled and has got too be losing people who go on it !

  4. This was the most retarded feature fix, not only does the video codec suck, what are users with poor bandwidth going to do?? hmm looks like im going to Gmail…

    ms needs to bring bill gates back cuz obviously the new management cant get anything right.

  5. How seriously stuoid is this move? Well I won’t be using MSN no more and neither will my family, I have always told my neice to never trust anyone online. If they want to cam, they show theirs first, so she knows, who is on the other end is, who they say they are. Now she would have to show her cam at the same time, and not only that she has to share voice. She’s 14 going on 15, she’s not into all this mute mic and so on. At the end of the day, if I dont want to share my cam, that should be my choice and not MSN’s. The matter is already being investigated by several countries comsumer and online services. I would feel my family was much safer online, if they wasn’t being pushed into having to share cam. If im at work and want the gf to see me, but not have her on cam, because Mr x is a perv, I can’t. You clearly haven’t thought this through and for that reason we are out. Oh and that bull about not many people using the webcam feature to be on cam to more than one, is wrong, because people have 3/4 way calling, but I reckon that will be back at a cost. Its all about control with Microsoft, we don’t own our own Computers anymore, with silly admin rights. I can wait for Someone to slap Microsoft so hard in the courts, coz that day is coming.

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