A year ago, getting instant-messaging systems to talk to one another was a red-hot topic. Yesterday AOL filed a mandated report with the FCC, detailing its progress toward opening up its IM to others - and the press barely noticed.
AOL has been the king of the IM mountain since it invented the service years ago. The company has always been zealous about keeping other IM systems from working with its own. Last year a coalition of companies including Microsoft lobbied hard to get the FCC to force AOL to open up its messaging community to others, as a condition of approving the AOL-Time Warner merger. At the time, AOL told the agency, "Don't push us, we're goin'." In the end, the FCC didn't mandate IM interoperability; it merely required AOL to file reports every six months on its progress toward that goal.
CNET's Jim Hu filed a solid backgrounder on the IM wars, noting how much the landscape has changed since those FCC hearings. "Critics that lobbied to force AOL's cooperation are now increasingly staking out their own independent territories," Hu wrote, pointing to Yahoo's recent introduction of a videoconferencing feature in Yahoo Messenger, and Microsoft's plan to bundle its IM client with the upcoming Windows XP.
The Washington Post's Alec Klein reported that AOL's 11-page filing was short on details - it "did not say when AOL would actually open its system to rivals" - and long on carping about how technically difficult it will be to achieve interoperability. Pity the poor media behemoth's programming woes.
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