Microsoft will start rolling up its Windows Messenger service from 15 March, the company has confirmed, but the network will remain available to users for another 12 months.

Earlier this week, The Next Web published an email sent from Microsoft to Messenger users, explaining that the existing Messenger service would be retired globally on 15 March 2013, and existing users would be migrated over to Skype.

“Update to Skype and sign in using a Microsoft Account (same as your Messenger ID) and all your Messenger contacts will be at your fingertips,” the email stated.

“You’ll be able to instant message and video chat with them just like before, and also discover new ways of staying in touch with Skype on your mobile and tablet.”

However, a report by Ars Technica reveals that 15 March is just the start of the retirement process. On this date, the Windows Messenger client will be blacklisted and unable to connect to the network, and anyone trying to log in via the client will be asked to install Skype.

Then, in October, Microsoft will turn off support for third-party clients using the open XMPP protocol introduced in December 2011, such as Pidgin, Adium, Digsby, and Trillian.

Finally, in March 2014, MSP support will be turned off and the current Windows Phone and Xbox clients will stop working.

Microsoft first announced its intention to shut down Windows Live Messenger back in November. "We want to focus our efforts on making things simpler for our users while continuously improving the overall experience," wrote Skype's president Tony Bates in a blog post.

To encourage Windows Live Messenger, he touted several benefits users will get from Skype, including support for more devices, including iPad and Android tablets, screen sharing, the ability to place calls to landline phones, and group video conferencing.