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Google May Push IM Interoperability

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With Google enabling open federation for its Talk product, will other instant messaging providers open their services for users to chat with people outside of their walled gardens?

Anyone can email another user on a different Internet service provider, and one mobile phone user on a network can call any other network, Google noted on its official blog. So why not IM too?

Google described how ‘open federation’ benefits users on any other openly federated IM service:

This allows you to choose your service provider based on other more important factors, such as features, quality of service, and price, while still being able to talk to anyone you want.

Unfortunately, the same is not true with many popular IM and VOIP networks today. If the people you want to talk to are all on different IM/VOIP services, you need to sign up for an account on each service and connect to each service to talk to them.

The Google Talk network supports open interoperability with hundreds of other communications service providers through a process known as federation.


Interoperability between instant messaging services has moved at a glacial pace. In October, Microsoft and Yahoo announced interoperability between their respective messaging services. AOL barely tolerates third-party services like Trillian and Meebo, both of which provide a single point of connectivity to multiple IM system; users still need accounts for each messaging service.

Google did effect the most dramatic change seen on the web-based email services when it debuted Gmail, with a full 1GB of email storage. That forced Yahoo and other providers to increase their skimpy storage offerings to match Gmail, which itself has increased to over 2.6GB of storage for users.

Storage is a much different proposition than interoperability, though. Physical storage devices price very reasonably for massive quantities of disk space, and boosting storage just makes the service more attractive for existing users. Plus, long-established email users tend to keep their addresses.

Interoperability poses more challenges. Each service has to support connections from its own users and those from outside, all of which contribute to bandwidth costs. A Microsoft user talking to a Yahoo user means neither sees the other’s advertisements; thus, no opportunity to offset the cost of the connection with ad revenue.

If Google Talk’s open federation doesn’t force the interoperability issue, users may do so, eventually. A lot of complicated agreements on how to make that work have to take place. Yahoo and Microsoft made their announcement in October 2005, but have yet to open their systems to the other’s users.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Google May Push IM Interoperability
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