PowWow sends up distress signals

Tribal Voice Inc. has announced it will cease offering its PowWow instant messaging service on Jan. 19, due in part to its inability to crack into the America Online Inc. Instant Messenger (AIM) member base.

Acquired in October by CMGion Inc. in Andover, Mass., Tribal Voice has been a critic of AOL, together with Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and iCast Corp. in Woburn, Mass.

Based in Denver, Tribal Voice was one of 43 companies that asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate AOL's instant messaging policies. They say AIM is anticompetitive because it won't allow its large member base to chat with users of other instant messaging (IM) services, such as PowWow, although those services may be configured to work with AIM.

In an announcement on its site, Tribal Voice told PowWow users, "Please be advised that PowWow will no longer be supported as of January 19, 2001. The PowWow instant messaging product, services and communities will not be available following that date. Please take the time to find a new service before January 19, 2001, to ensure no disruption in your instant messaging, chat and community services."

In an FAQ page on the site explaining the reason for the shutdown, CMGion cited AOL but also said PowWow wasn't a key part of the company's mission. "After careful review of CMGion's business objectives and strategic direction by its new management team, CMGion feels that the PowWow technology is not an integral part of CMGion's mission. In addition, given the barriers associated with AOL's market dominance, the company cannot continue to support it from a business perspective."

Dana Gardner, an analyst at the Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, said it's unfair to blame AOL entirely for the failure of PowWow. "Services that don't go up to a critical mass of users will not maintain viability," he said.

CMGI Inc, which owns a majority stake in CMGion, has also had a huge drop in its stock price, Gardner said. "They need to find ways of curbing money loss from losing ventures if possible. At the same time we've been expecting a shakeout of the instant messaging situation. Whether you could point at AOL [for PowWow's failure]

This story, "PowWow sends up distress signals " was originally published by Computerworld.

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