Microsoft Agent was a technology developed by Microsoft that allows for users to interact with animated characters inside applications and web pages. It used text to speech engines to allow the animated characters to speak to the end user. These animated characters were called "Microsoft Agents". It came preinstalled with Windows beginning with Windows 98. Microsoft Agent continued to release alongside all Windows versions until Windows 7 in 2009, following Microsoft's discontinuation of Microsoft Agent. The latest release of Microsoft Agent was version 2.0 on October 12th, 1998.
Microsoft Agent allowed for users of the software to make characters through the Microsoft Agent Character Editor. Four default characters were made by Microsoft on the original page, including Genie, Merlin, Peedy, and Robby. Some other notable characters are those featured in the Microsoft Office suite throughout 1997 to 2003, including Clippy, Dot, or Office Logo. The Windows XP search assistants are also Microsoft Agents, including Rover. Another mentionable Microsoft Agent is Bonzi, a purple gorilla that came bundled BonziBUDDY until its discontinuation. The Bonzi character later received a lot of attention after being a meme following multiple meme videos on it before Vinesauce Joel eventually streamed an XP destruction causing the popularity of the Bonzi character to rise.
Microsoft Agent characters could be exported in the .ACS file extension and served as the character file. There is also a .ACD format used by MACE that is the project file for the character. The .ACF is another format of a Microsoft Agent character meant for web usage.
Although Microsoft Agent was discontinued following the release of Windows 7 in 2009, it was still able to be used via installing Microsoft Agent's components from the Microsoft Agent installer. This allowed for operating systems that came after Windows Vista to run the software. Microsoft also made a hotfix for Windows 7 that allowed for Microsoft Agent to be installed. This version of Microsoft Agent is the same as version 2.0 but with support for Aero and SAPI 5 as the speech engine. The hotfix link was taken down following the end of support for Windows 7 in 2020.
Following multiple memes of the Bonzi Microsoft Agent character and Vinesauce Joel eventually covering it inside one of his Windows destruction livestreams, a large resurgence of popularity in Microsoft Agent. However, this lead to collapse of the 2nd Microsoft Agent Community, an entity that had existed since 2001. Afterwards, many small meme-lord communities existed making meme content out of the Bonzi MS Agent, before eventually dying out. Afterwards, Spidermanboy13 and Norbika9Entertainment had founded The Microsoft Agent Community sometime in 2015, with Norbika9Entertainment fully taking over by 2016. This community was influenced by Vyond and survived until April 2018, when Operation Butler had overthrown Norbika9Entertainment causing the influence to shift to object show community influence. This lasted until May 25th, 2018, when The Microsoft Agent Frontier Empire was founded with mapping influence. TMAFE successfully united many Microsoft Agent communities they could find in 2018 and eventually getting recognition from the 2nd Microsoft Agent Community as the official successor to them.
|Microsoft Agent Beta||October 28th, 1996||Yes||N/A|
|Microsoft Agent Beta 2.0||June 18th, 1997||Yes||N/A|
|Microsoft Agent 1.0||1997||No||N/A|
|Microsoft Agent 1.3||1997||Yes||N/A|
|Microsoft Agent 1.5||September 8th, 1997||Yes||http://tmafe.com/downloads/MSagent_1.5_setup.zip|
|Microsoft Agent 1.6||1997||Yes||N/A|
|Microsoft Agent 1.7||1997||Yes||http://tmafe.com/downloads/MSagent_1.7_files.zip|
|Microsoft Agent 2.0||October 12th, 1998||Yes||http://tmafe.com/downloads/MSagent_2.0_setup.zip|
- October 28th, 1996 - Microsoft Agent Beta announced on MSDN.
- 1997 - Microsoft Agent 1.0 released.
- September 8th, 1997 - Microsoft Agent 1.5, the first public version, was released.
- October 12th, 1998 - Microsoft Agent 2.0 released.
- Microsoft Agent utilizes animated desktop assistants alongside text to speech engines.
- Microsoft Agent first came bundled with Windows 98 and continued to be bundled with Windows until Windows 7.
- Microsoft released a hotfix for Microsoft Agent compatibility on Windows 7 following announcing the discontinuation of Microsoft Agent.
- The version in the hotfix is Microsoft Agent 6.1.7600.16426, but a bug causes it to appear as 6.01.7600.16426 in the Properties menu. It is very likely that it is the same bug that makes 2.0's version appear as 2.00 instead of 2.0.
- The hotfix link was taken down following the end of support for Windows 7.
- Genie, Merlin, Peedy, and Robby were the original four assistants developed by Microsoft.
- The release date of Microsoft Agent 2.0 is disputed. The 2nd Microsoft Agent Community had documented Microsoft Agent 2.0 releasing on October 12th, 1998, while the build date of "AgentSvr.exe" stating October 2nd, 1998. However, a Microsoft news article confirmed that the 2nd Microsoft Agent Community is right, and that there tends to be small gaps between build dates and release dates in Microsoft products.
- The "AgentSvr.exe" program is strangely compiled in Visual C++ debug mode rather than in Visual C++ release mode.
- Despite Microsoft Agent 6.1's and Microsoft Agent 5.2's version numbers, they are still Microsoft Agent 2.0 but with bug fixes and SAPI 5.0 support.
- Microsoft Agent was removed early on in Windows 7's development, as the earliest available build (Windows 7 build 6469) does not contain the files for Microsoft Agent.