Late last month, Microsoft announced it would fire its Xbox support staff and replace them with unpaid volunteers. It was a thrilling move for the corporation, whose net worth is well above $500 billion, and the firm is moving to capitalize on its newfound strength by killing off the support forums for multiple Windows products. In some cases, the move even makes sense.
According to a new message posted by Michelle Mad, “Effective July 2018, the Microsoft Community forums listed below will shift support scope and Microsoft staff will no longer provide technical support there. There will be no proactive reviews, monitoring, answering or answer marking of questions.” Forums will still be monitored for abusive content, but no other form of curation will be provided.
This announcement applies to the following forums:
- Windows 7, 8.1, 8.1 RT
- Microsoft Security Essentials
- Internet Explorer 10
- Office 2010, 2013
- Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, Surface RT, Surface 2
- Microsoft Band – this topic will be locked. Users are invited to participate in Microsoft Band 2 topic.
- Mobile devices forum – Microsoft support will continue in “Other Windows mobile devices” topic
- Zune – this topic will be locked, but will remain available for browsing
Some of these announcements make sense. The Zune has been dead for years. Office 2010 is an eight year-old product. The first two generations of Surface devices are somewhat newer, but so long as the forums remain online and past information can still be found there, they should be fine. But killing overall support for Windows 7 and 8.1 strikes us as a bit premature, given that millions of users around the world continue to rely on these operating systems. Both are also still in active security support, with Windows 7 not ending until 2020 and Windows 8.1 in 2023. At the very least, one might think Microsoft would make security-related announcements in these forums when applicable.
The flip side to this is that Microsoft’s community forums and general help guidelines simply aren’t very helpful. I don’t want to say I’ve never found the solution to a problem I was having in a Microsoft forum. In fact, I have found a couple small ones, though I don’t recall precisely what they were. What I do remember, however, is that these kind of “Eureka!” moments are the exception rather than the rule. Generally speaking, the community forums were full of well-meaning and minimally helpful people, very much including the employees. To be fair, this often isn’t the forum rep’s fault. Having a computer problem and being able to provide all of the relevant details of said problem in a manner that helps lead to a solution are not the same thing.
One of the major changes Microsoft made with Windows 10 was a general push to move Help and system information into online queries, adding more steps to the process and feeding new SEO-gaming websites, which sprung up overnight in an attempt to game the system by providing these answers themselves. The company’s emphasis on its Community forums was a part of that push, though obviously the forum system predates Windows 10. Still, MS has made a major effort to move more and more of its support to either online resources or, as with Xbox, to eliminate it altogether.