The Big Three IM Providers Budge… Just A Little

from the they-still-don't-get-it... dept

IM interoperability is always a popular topic, but for years, absolutely nothing has happened on this front. It’s been five years since Microsoft first launched MSN Messenger that included the ability to interact with AOL Instant Messenger, and AOL promptly blocked it starting the continuing battle for stupid IM interconnect policies. Just this past weekend, I had dinner with a friend who works on one of the big three messenger products, and we had a long discussion about this. After tossing out all the reasons why his company feels the need to keep up the garden walls on IM, he finally admitted that interoperability is the number one request they get from users — and agreed that it had to happen at some point. However, he cautioned that for interop to really work, all of the major players have to agree, and that’s not easy. In the early days, it was only AOL that didn’t want interop, and that was because they dominated the market. Now, it’s pretty much a three horse race, and all three players are hesitant to do too much interconnecting. However, that may be changing ever so slightly. Following last months’ dual announcements that AOL and Yahoo were both getting out of the enterprise IM business (as if people in companies don’t already use both products for work related IMs) AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft, in a stunning show of cooperation, have agreed to let all three IM products work with Microsoft’s enterprise IM server. This is, as mentioned, a tiny step. First, since Yahoo and AOL no longer compete in the space, they’re not really losing much. Second, this is only for users of the enterprise IM server, which is a pretty small group of folks. Still, it does suggest that the different IM groups have at least thought about ways to move toward interoperability, even if it’s unlikely to happen in any of our lifetimes. How difficult is it for any of these folks to realize that the more open they are, the more adoption they’ll get?

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Comments on “The Big Three IM Providers Budge… Just A Little”

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aNonMooseCowherd says:

Re: Makes sense

If companies like Microsoft and AOL had been around and gotten into the act in the early days of the net, it would have ended up a lot worse than email incompatibility. Instead of one Internet, each company would have had its own version of TCP/IP, and any communications at all between different companies’ products would have been impossible. In fact there are rumors (see Cringely’s
column — skip to the paragraph that starts with “According to these programmers”) that Microsoft wanted to do this, using security as a pretext.

Anonymous Coward says:

switch to jabber

I think the new rule should be, any time we editorialize on IM interop, an open standard should be mentioned.

It might not have some of the bells and whistles (i.e. consistent webcam support) but at least everybody could talk, and businesses could control their namespace.

Can you imagine if every company that wanted to use email had to pay MS a licensing fee to do so?

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