≡ Menu

The Next Step Should Be An Open Specification

Without diminishing the importance of yesterday’s announcement by Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT) that their IM clouds now interoperate, none of us should be hailing this as anything more than it actually is — two underdogs teaming up to try to beat the incumbent (in this case, AOL).  Neither Yahoo, nor Microsoft, despite the positioning, have done anything more than open a gate between their walled gardens. There is an undeniable benefit to consumers, but the benefit that has been offered is to remove just one of the many IM clients you currently have on your desktop.

What is needed is true interoperability.  The players in the industry need to move to a common standard, be that XMPP, or SIP/SIMPLE, and provide mechanisms for individual users to present credentials and authorize on any network.  What is the equivalent of cell phone roaming in the IM world?

We should take heart in Yahoo’s Brad Garlinghouse statement that they welcome other players to the table.

“We certainly welcome seeing other industry players come to the table,” Yahoo’s Garlinghouse said. “We’re blazing a trail for how interoperability is done.”

Great move Microsoft and Yahoo. We’re eagerly awaiting your next step.  What would really give us all hope is to see an open interoperability specification published.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Greg Fields July 13, 2006, 11:12 am

    Good point, Alec. It's good to hear about news of interoperability. It would be even better to base that news on some kind of statement of intent from Yahoo or MSFT camps regarding an open specification. I really don't think either situation – dev to open spec or further integration beyond client base functionality – will happen any time soon. Both MSFT and Yahoo! are looking to allocate resources that help build their communities, which in turn drives their brand awareness, builds powerful # of users (a figure which every press release will be sure to include), and drives the proliferation of their products into segments with greater ease.

    Nowhere in that reasoning is there room for a "user needs" paradigm beyond which features product planning should shove into the next release. In this instance, the needs of IM users are opposed to those of the commercial entities. Further, if we look beyond IM and point our spectacles at other technology areas, the future of a single spec looks grim. Linux distros for mobile/wireless terminals are fighting over the single spec. Vendors in the wireless value chain still fight over CDMA versus GSM based wireless protocols. Then there is the heated battle for the desktop between Windows, MacOSX and Linux. The need for technology choice abounds.

    While it's not likely we'll see the adoption of a single spec, what is more likely is to see an enterprising, innovative group of guys and gals who come up with a way to abstract everything but the native widget set and provide a single IM client that aggregates all others.

    Even better if that group of guys and gals delivered a value-added feature and found a business model to keep them afloat long enough to release a production-quality product.

    Dare to dream, I guess.

  • Alec July 13, 2006, 11:21 am

    Nice Greg :) The problem, of course, is that so long as the products are based on closed protocols, simple changes to those protocols can bamboozle your group of guys and gals…

Leave a Comment