Instant messaging protocol hits speed bump

By Stephanie Sanborn, InfoWorld |  Software

"I expect and hope that this time around, there are not going to be a lot of people in the way of making this happen," Park said. "I mean, I can't speak for what AOL is going to do or say, but I think most of the other companies really want this standard to happen and believe it's important. As long as the majority of those companies agree on something, we'll be able to move forward quickly."

As for grumblings that AOL is not helping the standards process along despite a pledge last year to work closely on an IM protocol, Marvit said he believes them to be false.

"I'm not as worried about the political intrigues, I'm really not. I'm focused on the protocol side," Marvit said. "Any contribution [AOL] wants to make to the group is most welcome, and they know that. Certainly, there isn't anybody oobstructing the process in any way . I don't know how you would do that."

Should the standards process become bogged down again for whatever companies, IM companies involved in the proposal process, such as TribalVoice and Microsoft as well as Yahoo, could attempt to raise public interest by spreading the word about the benefits of IM interoperability among their users. A second option, Park said, would be to prove interoperability's usefulness by banding together with other IM companies and linking their IM systems.

"Coming together and showing it's a possibility, even if it's not a standard that people can talk to another community, opens [users'] eyes up to say 'OK, if this is possible, why can't I talk to this community or that community?'" said Park, who did not comment on companies with which Yahoo might consider joining forces. "There definitely can be arguments made that showing customers what can be done will help speed the process of interoperability because people start asking for it more and more once they see it as a reality."

However, this forming of partnerships is less desirable than an open standard, because it does not benefit the entire industry.

"Open standards are really the ideal way to do [interoperability]," explained Park. "The reason it's ideal is because there's one standard that every developer in the world can build a service without worrying about what all the other companies are doing: They just build a cool product and put it out there knowing it's going to work because there's a standard they can apply their code against."

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