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AOL Instant Messaging Proposal Falls Flat

According to rival instant messaging firms, America Online Inc., which dubs its company "the world's largest interactive service," is not interactive at all when it concerns instant messaging.

America Online late Thursday unveiled its proposal for open instant messaging standards to the Internet Engineering Task Force, as originally requested from industry members in March.

AOL's proposal confirmed the company is in no rush to link-up with rival instant messaging systems until security and privacy concerns of the programs 50 million users are fully addressed.

AOL said that while the company is committed to allowing its instant messaging system to work with others, the focus should be on protecting consumers and preventing past mistakes.

Tricia Primrose, AOL spokesperson, said member security concerns would not be compromised for the sake of open interoperability.

"One of the ramifications of open standards for e-mail is spam," Primrose said. "AOL will not rush to put an open standard for instant messaging in place that doesn't protect consumers."

The open standards working group intends to publish its final proposal for a wholly interoperable instant messaging standard in July, but bickering over standards has slowed the groups process to date.

According to Primrose, there is no particular timetable for AOL to accept any recommendations the IETF may make.

AOL has come under heavy fire from competitors for delaying and blocking other instant messaging services from communicating with AOL users over the past year.

Competitors claim that AOL controls more than 90 percent of the instant messaging market. The same firms contend that AOL's stance on instance messaging should stop it from merging with Time Warner Inc. , as it is a harbinger of anti-competitive things to come from the online giant.

In its proposal to the IEFT, AOL cited its track record in sharing instant messaging systems with outside firms as part of its commitment to member privacy.

AOL noted it has struck agreements with more than a dozen companies ranging from IBM Corp., to Web portal Lycos Inc., and EarthLink Inc. owned MindSpring, Enterprises Inc. Each company is able to distribute AOL instant messaging software to their customers for use without paying royalties.

Odigo Inc. has been sparring with AOL engineers since it launched an instant messaging program that is compatible with AOL's proprietary AIM system. New patches are released daily as the pitched battle for open access to AOL instant message users continues.

Avner Ronen, Odigo vice president of strategic design, scoffed at AOL's professed desire for open standards stating that one hour after its proposal to the IETF, AOL again blocked Odigo's access to AOL Messenger.

"What AOL has posted is no more than an outline for interoperability," Ronen said. "On the surface, great, they are committed. However, they have claimed commitment for over one year now. This outline has no time-frame and no specific architecture. AOL's announcement does not bring us any closer to a standard platform."

Roee Vulkan, Odigio programming team leader said AOL is playing a cat-and-mouse game with its IP address.

"AOL's blocking our IP addresses does not effect our ability to provide interoperability to our users," Vulkan said. "We continue to have interoperability and, if our users are blocked, will continue to restore interopera



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