AOL doesn't want to share

from the childishness dept

So now that Microsoft has finally unveiled its instant messaging service (which includes the ability to talk with AOL instant messenger users) and Yahoo! has a beta of pager that also has that feature, AOL has blocked their access. This is just plain silly and greedy of AOL. It’s like making sure that no one can send AOL users email because they want everyone to use AOL email only. I hope they come to their senses.

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Comments on “AOL doesn't want to share”

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illuminate (user link) says:

Selfish? No!

A big discussion is going on at Slashdot – check it out. Isn’t it interesting how the company that DID NOT invest time and money to invent a technology is always the one that wants it to become a “standard.” Microsoft let their users send AOL users messages without returning the favor, and they offloaded all processing to AOL servers with no compensation. AOL supports the system through banner ads, Microsoft was leaching. Let ’em rot, I say!

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Selfish? No!

Yeah, but look at it in terms of the end user: everyone just wants to communicate with each other. The easiest way to do this is to let the different software products communicate with each other. Saying you need an “AOL” email system to accept email from an AOL user would be seen as ridiculous, and this is basically the same thing.

I’m no big fan of Microsoft, and I never have been, but in this case they’re doing the right thing. They want the system to be usable by anyone.

Mark Baker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Selfish? No!

Nah, I’ve got to side with AOL on this one. Let the protocol become pervasive first, then open it up later. I see *no* benefit to anybody in doing what MS is asking, except for MS. Standards are a wonderful thing, but dangerous in the wrong hands.

The only thing AOL has on MS is its channel at this point in time. If AOL opens up the protocol, then when the next version of Windows arrives (which will of course include an instant messaging app), MS will extend the protocol, thereby eradicating AOL’s channel advantage (since AOL will be caught playing catch-up trying to reverse engineer the extensions). If they get into that game, they lose (unless they think they can sign up enough people before the following Windows version to ship the MS-extension-compliant client – possible, but risky).

Besides, there are alternative ICQ clients out there so there’s definitely a choice (not sure about AIM). Let’s suck up the short term pain for some long term gain. And don’t even mention and IETF efforts in this space (PIPR/IMPP), for risk of making me laugh. Without an extension mechanism and a means to enforce it, these standards mean nothing strategically.

It’s cool to see Microsoft on the receiving end of these tactics. They’ve been dishing it out for far too long.


Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Selfish? No!

Okay, now here’s the thing… I agree that Microsoft has treated other people like this before, and in some sense it’s nice to see them on the receiving end of it, but it’s still silly and selfish. These clients should be able to communicate with each other. I have three different ones running on my task bar, and I have no intention of ever trying out Microsoft’s version. However, I’d like to be able to talk to various friends and family of mine no matter what client they’re using, and without having to make sure I have the latest version of each client. If I could have a single version of one of these clients (and right now I’m a big fan of Yahoo! messenger) that could communicate with the others, I’d be damn happy, and that’s what both Microsoft and Yahoo were trying to achieve.

If Microsoft tries to takeover and bend the standard so everyone else gets screwed that’s a different story, but they haven’t done that.

In the end, the important thing in my view is the end user, and its in the end user’s best interest to be able to communicate with everyone using one piece of software, just like email. If I had to have an AOL email account to send and receive email from other AOLers and a Yahoo! mail account to send and receive email to other Yahoo!ers and a MSN account to send and receive email to other Microsofties, wouldn’t that be ridiculous?

Mark Baker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Selfish? No!

Yes, that would be entirely ridiculous. I don’t disagree with your goal here Mike. It’s the right thing to do and I want as much as anybody to get there.

But, in our zeal to arrive at this happy place, let’s not make any naive mistakes that could jeopardize choice in the future. Blindly opening up that protocol right now could give Microsoft leverage enough to co-opt it by implementing a client that did AIM+ICQ+MSstuff. You could *guarantee* that MS would not release the spec to their extensions. Then, in the next version of Windows, they bundle their messaging client which magiclly disables any preinstalled ICQ or AIM (but don’t worry, they’ll release a patch 4 months later, and post it with no public fanfare in an obscure corner of their website). Then, by the magic of network effects, everybody uses it. Voila, AOL loses.

No thanks. I’d rather suck up some short term pain for long term gain.

The jury’s still out on whether AOL is much better – but at least they haven’t proven things one way or the other yet, unlike MS.


Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Selfish? No!

Okay, okay. Point taken, but I *still* think that standards issue aside, AOL is being childish in changing the protocol just to block Yahoo and Microsoft. You’re arguing on the standards side of things, and there you have a lot more knowledge and experience than I. My complaint is that even without standards of any kind MS and Yahoo created a nice product with additional functionality that makes life better. AOL could have left that on and fought the standards battle seperately. Yes? As far as I’m concerned that gives AOL the upper hand. They control the mass audience, and any changes they make (for a reason) others would have to follow. By simply shutting off access they seem childish.

Besides, I may very well be proven wrong on this one, but I don’t believe MS will magically take over this market over night. Sure, they’ve come back before, but this is a market with a huge entrenched audience, and getting people to switch is not easy…

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Selfish? No!

I understand what you’re getting at and it does make some sense…

However, Microsoft can (and almost certainly will) include its messenger client in the next version of Windows *anyway*. What difference does it make whether or not the other can communicate with it? I think that’s a separate issue. At least with some way of communicating *now* then people will be able to use the systems together. If we simply block it now, how is that any better than someoen blocking it later?

I think it’s interesting that everyone automatically jumps to the conclusion that Microsoft will want to block everyone else out of its messenger product, when right now they’re doing the exact opposite! The fact that they’ll bundle it with Windows will happen whether or not they can communicate with others, and I think people will have a much stronger case if all of the clients can communicate with each other before hand and Microsoft is seen moving *against* that. Whereas, waiting until Microsoft has it included, and *then* trying to force *them* to open up the standard is never going to happen.

Mark Baker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Selfish? No!

What difference? Well, the ICQ client has stickiness built in in the buddy list. If somebody upgrades Windows and gets the MS client, they still want to use ICQ/AIM because their buddy list is there and it’s a pain in the ass to re-enter everybody. If AOL opened up the protocol, MS would have free rein to do this. If they don’t, MS could still reverse-engineer the protocol and file formats, but AOL can then just wait until after the Windows CDs ship to tweak it.

Doing the “exact opposite” has been their MO for their entire existence. “Embrace and extend” starts by embracing. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, for sure.


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