Yahoo! and Microsoft’s instant messaging networks are now able to exchange messages between users. A Windows Live Messenger user can IM with their Yahoo! buddies within the Windows Live application and without having a Yahoo! account. Same thing in reverse for Yahoo! users. These initial features are just the beginning of planned interoperability between Yahoo! and Microsoft’s networks.
The interoperability should be especially popular in east Asia, where Yahoo! and Windows Live Messenger are extremely popular. Desktop clients based on open-source libraries such as Gaim currently provide a single client for text-messaging access to multiple networks today, and the large networks mainly turn a blind eye to what could be considered rogue clients.
The original version of MSN Messenger, launched in 1999, included interoperability with AOL Instant Messenger that was shut off and turned on again through rapid patches on both sides. Although it is possible to bind to AOL’s OSCAR servers and create custom clients, AOL’s current developer terms of service prohibit clients “that are multi-headed or interoperable with any other IM network.” Apple Computer signed a deal with AOL in 2002 establishing iChat as an officially licensed product.
Any IM network could interoperate with Google Talk over XMPP and TLS. Google and AOL have announced plans for Google Talk and AIM interoperability “provided certain conditions are met” after Google’s investment of $1 billion in AOL last year. Google previously offered the Trillian multi-protocol instant messenger as part of its Google Pack software package but has since removed the software from its bundled offering.
Instant messaging networks are the first step towards defining a broad social network across multiple networks and service providers. The more information a search company can collect about the preferences of you and your friends, the better targeted search results and advertisements they are able to serve back to the user (at a higher advertising fee of course). You can expect more interactions and data exchange between large networks as these companies try to learn more about you, your friends, and your favorite online activities.