Truce May Be Near in Instant Messaging Wars
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New hopes have emerged that the interoperability impasse among instant messaging programs can be broken.
Besides standards-setting efforts by the Internet Engineering Task Force, an informal initiative is underway to bring the players together in peace talks out of the glare of the media.
IP telephony consultant Jeff Pulver is hosting a closed-door instant messaging summit on Sept. 8th in New York. While he won't reveal whether AOL and Microsoft have agreed to attend, he claims more than 40 companies are confirmed attendees. One idea to be floated at the meeting: Allowing IM users to opt-in to interoperability.
"We're looking for an environment similar to the evolution of e-mail, in which companies can maintain the privacy and integrity of their customers, and yet allow them to participate outside their proprietary system," Pulver told InternetNews.com.
According to Richard Dym, vice president of marketing for Tribal Voice Inc., makers of the popular Pow-Wow messaging client, tensions are running high because much more is at stake than merely enabling users to trade real-time messages with their buddies.
"This is all about online presence, the ability to take advantage of a direct connection to the user to send everything from ads to stock information and a range of personalized information right to the user's desktop, and in the future to cell phones, PDAs, or wherever they're connected to the Internet."
Tribal voice, which claims 5 million users of its Pow Wow system, will release a version of its software in coming weeks that will enable users to communicate with Microsoft Messenger users. In addition, it will attempt to connect them AOL Instant Messenger users. Such efforts by Microsoft, Prodigy, and Yahoo have been foiled by AOL, and Dym admits that that AOL has ignored repeated requests from Tribal Voice to talk about interoperability.
"The realitity is that AOL created this business and has positioned itself as the de facto standard. But in their heart of hearts they know they must move to an open system. Microsoft's actions are forcing them to realize that it's better to cooperate and control the interoperability than force people to find loopholes and make it happen uncooperatively."
That news comes as Microsoft Corp. has reportedly identified and reprimanded an employee who used a false identity to send a message discrediting America Online Inc. and its instant messaging product to a computer security expert.
According to a report in The New York Times Thursday, Microsoft said the employee stepped forward to confess, but the company won't specify what disciplinary actions it will take.
The sneaky e-mail helped to increase bitterness between Microsft and America Online over the interoperability of their messaging products.