AOL baits MSN Messenger users

Computer World –

America Online Inc. is experimenting with a new approach in its ongoing spat with Microsoft over their rival instant messenger products.

Meanwhile, EarthLink Network Inc. and MindSpring Enterprises Inc. announced today that they will distribute co-branded versions of AOL's Instant Messenger, making the software available to another 2.5 million users.

For weeks, AOL has been blocking users of Microsoft Corp's competing MSN Messenger from connecting to AOL's Instant Messenger service. Now users can connect initially but are likely to receive an instant message from AOL prompting them to switch software. The message contains a link to a download site for AOL Instant Messenger. After receiving the message, the users are disconnected, though they are able to reconnect instantly.

An AOL spokesperson said yesterday that the move doesn't signal a change in overall strategy: AOL will continue to block out MSN Messenger users altogether when possible. AOL wouldn't disclose whether the new approach has resulted in a rise of AOL Instant Messenger downloads.

The AOL spokesperson said the company is committed to working with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to develop a standard for instant messaging, despite AOL's recent creation of a separate Internet Messenger "advisory group" made up mainly of Microsoft foes. "The goal is to complement what [the IETF is] doing, not to replace it," AOL said.

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