RealTime IT News

Group Moves to Crack Instant Messaging Barriers

Leading technology companies Tuesday launched a new coalition whose single mission in life is to resolve instant messaging interoperability standards.

Dubbed IMUnified, founding members include AT&T Corp., Excite@Home, iCAST Corp., MSN Internet, Phone.com Inc., Prodigy Communications Corp., Tribal Voice and Yahoo! Inc.

The coalition's goal is to break through the barriers of creating a seamless instant messaging standard for all Internet service providers. The group intends to eradicate closed, proprietary instant messaging systems and replace it with a single operating standard to provide private and secure messaging systems.

Brian Park, Yahoo! senior producer, took the opportunity to invite other firms to join the technology alliance.

"Internet users want to exchange instant messages with each other, regardless of which service they use," Park said. "We welcome the participation of other interested instant messaging companies who share the vision of interoperability based on open standards and encourage them to join our efforts."

Nearly every member of the group has accessed the instant messaging system of America Online Inc. over the past year. The companies played a technical game of dodge ball, gaining access to America Online's instant messaging servers, being blocked from access, circumventing the barriers, only to be permanently blocked from shared access again.

Each time a flare-up of what's been called the "Instant Messaging Wars" occurred, AOL made it clear the leading Internet access provider would not allow its members privacy to be compromised.

IMUnified intends to make publicly available by the end of August a set of specifications that will enable functional interoperability among its members' instant messaging services. Coalition members plan to implement the specifications as soon as possible.

IMUnified intends to be among the first to support protocols developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force in its efforts to create standards for instant messaging interoperability.

The IETF is scheduled to meet in Pittsburgh, PA for its 48th session July 30 through August 4 and the Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol is in the agenda.

Ross Bagully, Tribal Voice chief executive officer, said the formation of the group would create an open standard for instant messaging and would be a big win for the users of all instant messaging services.

"We are committed to supporting the creation of an open-standards solution based on the work going on at the IETF," Bagully said. "This announcement brings us one step closer to making open communication between all instant messaging services a reality."

Initially, IMUnified intends to build upon technologies already used by many coalition members to enable their Internet users to communicate freely with each other. Subsequently, IMUnified would focus its efforts on the implementation of deeper interoperability standards to rapidly incorporate the emerging specifications of the IETF standards, when set.

Yusuf Mehdi, MSN vice president, said the groups members would work together to enhance the privacy and security of an integrated instant messaging network.

"One of the things that makes this coalition so exciting is the opportunity to work together and learn from each other so that we can create a system that is even more pr