Microspeak: Whale Boy

Today is the tenth anniversary of Windows Live Messenger. My colleague Danny Glasser provides some history behind the product, and you can watch a tenth anniversary celebration video created for the occasion. And thus is inspired today's Microspeak: Whale Boy.

Whale Boy is the nickname for the pawn-shaped Messenger buddy icon. His normal state is green, but he changes color or picks up a piece of flair to indicate various changes in status, such as busy or away.

I don't know the etymology of the term, but I suspect it came from his somewhat rotund appearance.

Sample usage (which I made up just now; not from an actual document): "Why don't we light up Whale Boy when the user regains connectivity?"

Bonus Microsoft trivia: At timecode 3:40 in the video (spoiler alert!) Steve Liffick presents Whale Boy with a strange glass object. That is the Microsoft ten-year service award. Stick around for 25 years and collect the entire set!

Comments (9)
  1. Someone You Know says:

    Whale Boy must be the child of the nicely diverse couple who make up the User Accounts icon.

  2. Tom says:

    LOL, that’s funny.  I guess "Whale Boy" is modeled after the constantly-growing waistlines of average Americans.

    Maybe Whale Boy needs a stint on The Biggest Loser?!?

  3. Worf says:

    Great. Considering my oh-so-nice avatar I carefully picked out doesn’t show up on one of my coworker’s MSN IM windows… I’ll be one of his many Whale Boys. (For some reason he upgraded and promptly lost practically everyone’s avatars.)

    While he sits pretty with an icon.

  4. William Reading says:

    I thought the thing was called "doughboy". At least that’s the name of it in the messenger derived source that I’ve seen.

  5. Duke of New York says:

    By using a green character icon Microsoft is promoting Martian dominance and discriminating against humans everywhere.

    PS: Congratulations on RTM

  6. Ulric says:

    Didn’t they get rid of this icon in this year’s live messenger, and switch to using colors instead of different pawn icons to show status?

  7. MarkKB says:

    @Ulric: Yes, but not for the notification icon, that’s what Raymond is referring to.

  8. Scott Salley says:

    A friend from S. Korea told me he and his friends refer to it as a snowman in Korean.

  9. Ulric says:

    I’m surprised that there wasn’t more outrage when Windows Live Messenger switched to using color jewels instead of different shapes to signify away/busy/blocked.

    But more to subject, perhaps as a non-native english speaker, I don’t understand why this guy is called Whale Boy.  What is this a reference to?

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