Category Archives: Instant Messaging

Washington Post Reviews Sad State of IM Interoperability

Perhaps a reminder of the wretched state of instant-messaging interoperability wasn’t necessary, but Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post does a good job providing an update in light of the move by Microsoft and Yahoo to allow their respective subscribers to talk to each other from their otherwise closed and propriety IM networks.

IM is the backward, toothless cousin of Internet services, held back by atavistic parental genes and bad governance. In that regard, Pegoraro notes the following:

With most other kinds of communication — phone calls, e-mail or cellphone text messages — the ability to contact somebody who uses a different provider than you isn’t considered a feature worth advertising.

But not instant messaging, which remains behind left behind, a victim — along with all its users — of companies that seek to lock their customers into proprietary straitjackets rather than competing on the basis of creativity and innovation. Even interoperability, or what passes for it between Yahoo and Microsoft, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as Pegoraro explains.

It’s a good column — it first appeared online yesterday — and it’s well worth reading if you haven’t had an opportunity to get to it.

Upgraded Google Talk Irrationally Assailed

Google has upgraded its instant-messaging client, Google Talk, adding features such as file transfer, voicemail, and music status.

The file-transfer feature allows users to send unlimited files and folders to their correspondents, while the voicemail capabilities allow messages to be left for offline parties, who can retrieve them later as email attachments. The music-status capability, the appeal of which utterly escapes me, allows a user to apprise online friends (those on his or buddy list) of the music he or she might be enjoying at any given moment. Hmm, I sense a cross-selling ploy on the horizon.

Still, the file-transfer and voicemail features are solid additions to Google Talk, a standards-based (XMPP) IM client that deserves more success in the market than it has garnered so far. While Microsoft and Yahoo facilitate interoperability between their proprietary IM fiefdoms, Google, perhaps as a result of circumstance as much as choice, has wholeheartedly embraced industry-standard protocols. Regardless of why Google has done so, it should be applauded for that decision.

Instead, however, Google gets bashed, which seems to be the trendy thing to do these days in Silicon Valley. TechCrunch impresario Michael Arrington mocks Google Talk’s minuscule IM market share and lack of a Mac client. Meanwhile, In a surprisingly scathing entry, Charlie White of Gizmodo provides similarly derisive commentary.

There is some balanced coverage of Google Talk’s new features, however, with Garett Rogers of ZDNet noting that the file-transfer feature, in particular, could help draw more users into Google Talk’s orbit. Some thoughtful commentary also is available at Cybernet News, where questions about whether file-transfer capabilities will expose users to viruses and whether the new features will be integrated into the web-based chat functionality of Gmail are explored.

Just to be clear, I, too, would like to see a Google Talk Mac client. Even though third-party XMPP clients such as Adium, Gaim, and Apple’s own iChat work seamlessly with Google Talk and are available today, I think Google should provide its own Mac client as a courtesy to the user community. The cost would not be prohibitive, and the gesture would be appreciated.

That said, how many years (yes, years) pass before Yahoo and Microsoft refresh their Mac IM clients? Yet there was not a peep from Arrington today on that matter, neither in his post regarding Google Talk’s new features nor in an earlier post he made regarding the release of Yahoo Messenger Version 8 for Windows.

Finally, as noted above, Google has espoused and implemented industry-standard IM protocols, open to any and all similarly standards-based services that wish to interoperate with it, whereas Microsoft and Yahoo have retreated behind walled gardens, with a subterranean tunnel used to connect their two fortresses. That, it seems to me, is an issue more deserving of censure and condemnation than the alleged sins of modest market share and lack of a Mac client.