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CMGion to Ax Instant Messaging Service

A note posted on CMGion's Tribal Voice site said the company will discontinue the popular PowWow instant messaging service and America Online Inc. seems to be the blame..

Used by such Internet Service providers as AT&T WorldNet and U.K.'s Freeserve Plc, the service will be killed Jan. 19, 2001.

CMGion officials did not return phone calls Monday, but in a statement on a frequently asked questions list on its site, the firm claimed it could not continue to support PowWow given America Online Inc.'s dominance in the instant messaging market.

Jonathan Bass, an A & R public relations spokesperson for CMGion, told InternetNews.com Monday there will be attempts to help current PowWow users transfer to other instant messaging services, but said he could not explain why the service was being discontinued.

But if PowWow is, in fact, citing AOL as the reason for sloughing off the service, those following the instant messaging wars, in which AOL clearly has dominance, shouldn't be surprised by the decision. PowWow has been a vocal opponent against the giant ISP's numerous blockages of IM interoperability. Blaming AOL is a shrewd move by Tribal Voice.

This would mean Tribal Voice and PowWow would have to beg out of the IMUnified coalition, a host of companies working to install IM interoperability standards that includes such luminaries as Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

At a IMUnified roundtable discussion last July, Ross Bagully, chief executive officer of Tribal Voice, answered the question as to why AOL doesn't belong in the coalition:

"Why not AOL until this point? Actually, I don't think it's that mysterious. In my view, what separates those who are participating in this effort and those who are not is their level of interest in interoperability," Bagully told Microsoft's PressPass. "Today, AOL controls 90 percent of the market, and they don't want that to change.

PowWow joins iCast, another CMGI company and AOL critic, which closed its doors last week as part of CMGI's restructuring.

Janet Wyles, AT&T WorldNet spokesperson, said her company was looking into alternatives for the impending demise of PowWow.

"We're going to work with Tribal Voice from a timeframe perspective -- if it makes sense to look at going beyond January 19, and we're already talking to others inside and outside to ensure that the planned transition will be seamless," Lyles told InternetNews Radio Monday.

"When we do transition, the page may look different, but it will work the same way and they will be able to maintain the features they currently have."

InternetNews Radio host Brian McWilliams contributed to this story.