Microsoft's "Office Assistant," commonly known as Clippy, was a talking paperclip with googly eyes that nobody liked. We recently cited its debut appearance in Office 97 as one of the most famous times that Windows sucked, saying that it was often wrong and always irritating. Clippy was so unpopular that even Microsoft itself joined in with the hate, in the form of a series of Office XP ads in 2003 celebrating Clippy's demise. (You can see them on YouTube if you don't want to horse around with archives and Flash animations.) In 2007, Clippy was excised from Microsoft Office completely.
The funny thing about the passage of time is that it can make things that objectively sucked seem not so bad in hindsight. For instance, I somehow have fond memories of waking up at 5 am so I could dress in a sticky rain suit and pick tobacco from sodden fields as a teenager; and in a similar vein, Clippy appears to be enjoying a nostalgia-powered uptick in popularity. Microsoft recently released some blast-from-the-past backgrounds for Microsoft Teams that included a loving portrait of the mascot, and now it's threatening to bring its jaunty anthropomorphised stationary back for real.
If this gets 20k likes, we’ll replace the paperclip emoji in Microsoft 365 with Clippy. pic.twitter.com/6T8ziboguCJuly 14, 2021
The good news for Clippy haters is that it is not about to start shouting at you from the Windows 11 desktop—as far as I know, anyway. Instead, the plan is to add it as an emoji in Microsoft 365 (opens in new tab), formerly known as Office 365, a cloud-based subscription service that offers access to productivity services ranging from basic productivity applications including Word, Excel, and Outlook, to more business and enterprise-oriented programs and features like Teams, Exchange, and SharePoint. And while obviously I can't say for certain, I strongly suspect that if Clippy actually did make a full-on return to action, Microsoft would take care to ensure that it's not the irritating little pain in the ass it was 20 years ago.
What I can say for certain is that, assuming Microsoft is serious, the Clippy comeback is happening: It took just an hour for the tweet to blow past 20,000 likes, and the number is still climbing rapidly. It seems that people really do miss the little guy. Like I said, time is a funny thing.
I've reached out to Microsoft if this is a serious plan, or just a Twitter goof that got out of hand. I'll update if I receive a reply.