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Microsoft Rebuffs AOL Request in Online-Messaging War

Microsoft Corp. has given the cold shoulder to a request from America Online Inc. which recommended that the two companies form a business arrangement to resolve their battle over instant messaging.

According to Bloomberg, Microsoft sent a letter from Vice President Brad Chase, asking AOL to join industry efforts to create standards for instant messaging, rather than work out a deal between industry software and Internet service monoliths now.

Tricia Primrose, AOL spokesperson, said their goal in attaining a workable solution for interoperable instant messaging is no different than MSN.

"From where we sit, we think Internet messaging will be completely open and interconnected. The question is how the industry will overcome the technical hurdles of coordinating access without risking consumer security and privacy issues."

Instant messaging alerts users when friends are online and allows them to send short messages back and forth. AOL is blocking users of MSN Messenger from sending instant messages to its members because Microsoft requires that AOL members reveal their user names and passwords while signing up for the messaging service.

The war began late last week when Microsoft introduced MSN Messenger on its network of Web sites. The program let users link to AOL's instant messaging. AOL blocked the maneuver and since then, each side has posted several software updates to get around and then re-establish the block.

AOL also has blocked Yahoo! Inc. and Prodigy Communications Corp. from sending instant messages to its members.

Ann Brackbill, AOL senior vice president of communications, said Microsoft's response to building a bridge between the two companies instant messaging services was basically no response at all.

"Rather than work together to build a plan, Microsoft tried to convince us that their access to our servers without our permission was not a security risk for consumers."

Brackbill added that AOL had worked out deals with other companies to make their instant messaging systems interoperable, secure and scalable.

"AOL has agreements with IBM Corp.'s Lotus Development Corp., for access to a protocol needed to communicate with AOL instant-messaging subscribers," Brackbill said.

"We also work with Netscape and RealNetworks to build messaging services that keep both communities happy and secure."

Microsoft officials have offered no comment on the instant messaging debate with AOL. The software giant has publicly called upon the industry to develop IM protocols acceptable to all access providers, but producing such an industry standard may take years.

In the meantime, AOL and MSN instant messaging fans will not benefit from knowing when a friend or family member is online, leaving real-time conversations in chat rooms only.



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