Anyone who has used a Bloomberg terminal is familiar with the email function. What’s less known is the product backstory.

Bloomberg Message, created in 1992, allowed any client to look up and directly contact any one else in the network.

Other companies had email within their corporate walls, but Bloomberg was unusual in making it possible for a bond salesman at one firm to reach out to an investor at another.

Gmail wasn’t unveiled until 2004. It’s taken almost three decades for other firms, such as Facebook Messenger or LinkedIn, to begin to provide similar directories to look up and connect with people.

As a product story its interesting because it didn’t originate with client requests or a business plan. It was created to solve an internal communication challenge.

Engineers in New York were struggling to communicate with colleagues in London. At the time they used bulletin boards.

The problem was that scores of conversations were going on simultaneously.

The key insight was that they needed way to message individuals directly. It was so useful that the company enabled clients.

The engineers knew it would be huge. One joked that he would be happy to forgo salary in exchange for a penny per message.

MSG is a good reminder that some of the best new product ideas can emerge internally.