By mid-2006 Yahoo and Microsoft will break down the Berlin Wall between their instant messagers. It's about time, but AOL is still trying to hold on to its exclusive territory. The peace agreement could be viewed as Yahoo and Microsoft ganging up on AOL, and blocking Google and Skype, but I prefer to think of it as doing what's best to evolve online community. If AOL and MSN join up, then AOL might be compelled to join the group. Om Malik points out that Yahoo/Microsoft could be concerned about the IMFederation, which calls for the use of open standards (Jabber) and directories by all IM networks. I doubt that was a primary reason, but with Wall Street firms and other corporations joining the chorus of consumers calling for IM interoperability, the IM providers are at least hearing some hoofbeats...
Update: Cliff Reeves, general manager of Microsoft's .NET platform strategy (who I knew way back in his IBM days working on OS/2), thinks the collaboration will be good for business users and Microsoft's server business:
Notably, this interoperability is based on the SIP/SIMPLE protocols ... the same protocols that underpin Microsoft's Real Time Collaboration products: Live Communications Server and Communicator, and also those underpinning the MSN-Vodafone announcement In June this year.
LCS and Communicator already offered public IM connectivity to MSN, Yahoo, and AOL users, but this announcement covers not just instant messaging, but online presence, Voice over IP, and shared contacts.
This agreement will continue to legitimize enterprise-consumer reach, and will be a big big boost to companies building on and extending LCS platform, particularly those who provide additional security and compliance.
Update 2: The interoperability between MSN and Yahoo messengers could lead to a massive IM worm outbreak, experts say.