Freeserve Joins Instant Messenger Fray

Freeserve Tuesday brought the instant messenger battle across the pond, announcing plans to roll out its own instant messenger in partnership with Tribal Voice.

The new service is expected to be launched by the end of the year. Dubbed Freeserve Communicator, it will be interoperable with America Online’s (AOL) Instant Messenger (IM), Microsoft’s (MSFT) MSN Messenger Service and other services.

As AOL’s major rival in Europe, Freeserve’s entry in the instant messaging market may revive the instant messenger tug-of-war which started in the U.S. between Microsoft and AOL.

FreeServe (FREEV) was launched September 1998 in the UK, and its success triggered a flood of new free ISP services in the region. As of June, Freeserve enlisted 1.32 million accounts. The service’s popularity forced AOL to counter-offer with its own free service, Netscape Online, which was launched in August.

Tribal Voice’s popular PowWow service is also used by AT&T (T) for its WorldNet Service instant messenger.

“We chose to build the Freeserve Communicator with Tribal Voice because PowWow incorporates the latest technology and offers the very best instant messaging service,” said John Pluthero, Freeserve’s chief executive officer. “It’s great fun and easy to use, fits perfectly with our existing portfolio of communication tools and further expands the range of services we offer our customers.”

International Data Corp. estimates that global revenues from instant messaging services will increase from $7.6 million in 1998 to $1.9 billion by 2003.

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