Over the past few years, we've seen people on Messenger put emoticons or special symbols in their nicknames to mourn victims of terrorist attacks, AIDS, acts of God or evil stingrays. Sometimes these appeals create a sizeable buzz, in other cases just dozens of "colorful" contact lists. But with Microsoft now jumping on this trend for the first time you'll be able to actually make a difference without spending any money!
Like we told you in January, Microsoft has hidden an emoticon in its 8.1 version of Windows Live Messenger, and we also suggested that putting it in your Display Name would generate a donation to charity for every conversation you initiate. Several early adopting Microsoft employees who read about it at Mess.be were even ordered to remove the emoticon from their nicknames... until today's official launch (March 1st, 2007) of the "i'm Initiative". We previously revealed different shortcuts that show the charity emoticon and, depending on which shortcut you use, you decide which one of the nine participating organization benefits from your free donations. By selecting your favorite cause from the following list and putting the associated emoticon in your Display Name, you can personally help the organization attain its goals:
*sierra - Sierra Club: "Explore, enjoy, and protect the planet" [link]
*bgca - Boys and Girls Clubs of America: "Inspiring and enabling all young people to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens" [link]
*9mil - ninemillion.org: "UN Refugee Agency led campaign to raise awareness and funds for education and sport programs for nine million refugee children around the world" [link]
*komen - Susan G. Komen for the Cure: "Breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment" [link]
*mssoc - National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Finding a cure for multiple sclerosis and enabling people affected by MS to enhance their quality of life" [link]
*red+u - American Red Cross: "Helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies" [link]
*unicef - UNICEF: "The world's leading children's organization works for children's rights, their development and protection" [link]
*naf - National AIDS Fund: "Aims to reduce incidence and impact of HIV/AIDS by promoting leadership and generating resources for effective community responses to the epidemic" [link]
*help - StopGlobalWarming.org: "The Stop Global Warming Virtual March is a non-partisan effort to bring citizens together to declare that global warming is here and now and it is time to demand solutions" [link]
NEW *hsus - The Humane Society of the United States: "Promoting the protection of animals, fighting factory farming, animal cruelty, fur trade, and inhumane sport hunting practices" [link]
Here's a Q&A regarding the "i'm Initiative" which we'll keep updated.
Q: Why the emoticon?
A: Simply because it can easily be inserted in front of your actual name (eg. i'm dwergs) or as some sort of status indication (eg. i'm at work or i'm watching TV). Of course, the letters IM also stand for Instant Messaging, and the program's URL (im.live.com) doesn't look too bad for branding purposes either.
Q: What's my effort worth?
A: Donations are derived from Windows Live Messenger's advertising revenue, but the exact amount of a single contribution has not be specified. Microsoft assures that there's no cap on the total amount a cause can receive and that they will make a $100,000 guaranteed donation to each of the nine involved organizations during the first year of the i'm program.
Q: Can anybody participate?
A: A MAJOR restriction, unfortunately, is that the campaign is limited to users in the United States. That's why the coinciding launch event takes place in Washington DC only. And that's also why non-English versions of Windows Live Messenger 8.1 do not feature the What is i'm option in the context menu when right-clicking a participant. However, you can still put the emoticon in your nickname in order to raise awareness for the campaign among your U.S.-based buddies.
Q: How do I generate a donation?
A: You'll generate a donation for every active conversation you initiate while the i'm emoticon is included in your display name. Basically, that's every time a conversation window is opened and your i'm-enabled nickname appears at the top, eg. when you double-click a contact just to say "hi", or request someone to start a audio or video chat, or even when you invite someone to play game or start an activity in Messenger.
Q: What about the other emoticon shortcuts Mess.be revealed?
A: There are indeed a couple of other shortcuts that display the i'm emoticon and they clearly refer to other charity organizations (eg. *oxfam, *wwf and *one). We are unaware of Microsoft's plans for them but they are, at least for now, not affiliated nor producing any donations. Maybe these deals have fallen through or maybe they're going to be added later. You'll read it at Mess.be.
Q: Can I support multiple organizations at once?
A: Only the first shortcut in your nickname counts, so there's no point adding them all, but you are free to replace it with another shortcut at any time and as much as you like.
>> Don't forget to Digg this news and pass it on! Link to our FAQ for all the latest on i'm.
>> Download the required Windows Live Messenger 8.1 (English US) here.
>> Head over to im.live.com or the press release for more information.