One truce aside, the IM war continues

If you only read certain blogs or publications today — or press releases from both Microsoft and Yahoo — you would think that something truly revolutionary had been announced, with the news that Microsoft’s MSN Messenger (or Windows Live Messenger or whatever we’re supposed to call it nowadays) will inter-operate with Yahoo’s instant messaging client as part of a limited beta. Thankfully, however, there are people with memories that last longer than a week or two, like Elinor Mills of CNet and Alec Saunders of Iotum and Stowe Boyd of, well… Stowe Boyd.

Is the fact that Yahoo and Microsoft’s IM clients will work together something to celebrate? Yes. The walled gardens of instant messaging have existed for too long, just like early phone systems that would only handle calls to users of the same network. But this deal was announced about nine months ago, as CNet points out, so it’s hard to get excited about it all over again. In addition, the two companies go out of their way not to mention the fact that their systems still won’t work with IM applications from anyone else — including, of course, AOL’s AIM and Google’s GTalk.

Those two companies are working on their own federation deal as part of their $1-billion partnership, and GTalk already works with open-source instant messaging apps such as the Jabber client. Why don’t Yahoo and Microsoft support open-source too? Because they likely see that as helping Google, or diluting whatever strengths they feel they have as a result of keeping users in a kind of IM roach motel.

Obviously, companies can do whatever they want with their applications, and co-operate with whomever they wish to co-operate with. Unlike my friend Stowe, I would hesitate to recommend that the government force them to open up their networks. But just because they choose to do that doesn’t mean as users that we have to congratulate them for it. I will continue to use GTalk or Trillian or Meebo or any other app that lets me inter-operate with everyone.


According to the latest numbers, Google Talk is at the very bottom of the list as far as IM clients go. Does that surprise anyone? Not me. It’s only been around for less than a year, for one thing, and it doesn’t inter-operate with MSN or Yahoo (because they don’t want to, not because Google doesn’t want to). I still like the way it integrates with Gmail, and I like the fact that it supports the Jabber standard, despite what my comment-writing fan says below. Open standards are better — period.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *