Looking for peace, love, and harmony - IM style

Looking for peace, love, and harmony - IM style

Summary: I have a love-hate relationship with instant-messaging software. It’s a great way to stay in touch with editors, co-authors, and friends.


I have a love-hate relationship with instant-messaging software. It’s a great way to stay in touch with editors, co-authors, and friends. It’s also a great way to lose focus during the course of the working day. When I’m working on a project, the benefits generally outweigh the hassles, so I grit my teeth and log on.

The trouble is, IM services are still balkanized. How would you feel if you had to use a half-dozen proprietary e-mail client programs to communicate with everybody on your list of correspondents? That, unfortunately, is still the case with IM software. My co-authors on Windows Vista Inside Out use Windows Live Messenger, my editor at ZDNet uses Yahoo Messenger, and some of my trusted contacts are fans of Google’s Gmail Chat or Skype. I’m sure there are still AOL IM users on my contact list, too, as well as some diehard IRCers. If I want to remain in contact with all of them, I have to load three or more messaging clients and dedicate a full-time browser window to Gmail. Ugh.

Several years ago, I used Trillian, which did a pretty good job of bridging the gap between the AOL, Yahoo, MSN, and IRC/ICQ worlds, despite an extended battle with AOL, which would change its connection settings and break Trillian’s software for hours or days at a time. They’re still around, but they don’t do Gmail Chat or Skype, nor do they support some of the more advanced features of each proprietary messaging client.

Yesterday, Microsoft officially released its latest IM client, Windows Live Messenger, after a fairly lengthy beta period, and Yahoo released a beta of its new messenger client. I’ll have more on Windows Live Messenger later this week, but for now the most encouraging news is this tidbit from the announcement page:

Soon: talk to your Yahoo! friends, too
Soon you'll be able to use Windows Live Messenger to talk to your friends who use Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. The world's largest IM network is getting even bigger.

That’s a surprise I wasn’t expecting. (I missed the original announcement last October.) According to one Microsoft blogger, the code is done and the Live-to-Yahoo connection should be available soon:

As it turns out, it’s been a hard problem to solve, and the team has been working hard,  I still don’t know exactly when you’re going to be able to start adding those Yahoo! Buddies to your WL Messenger, but it can’t be much longer.  Last week I got to check out a fully functional version of WL Messenger which could exchange IMs with a fully functional version of Yahoo!

They’ve still got some work to do – specifically final testing. But soon, Windows Live people will be IMing with Yahoo! people and the world will be that much closer to universal love, peace, and harmony!

Well, maybe. The Yahoo-Microsoft deal is a good first step, joining the #2 and #3 players in the IM space, but no one seems to be the least bit interested in establishing a standard that all IM clients can use to communicate with one another. Utopia doesn’t arrive until Google and AOL join the drum circle. And something tells me that’s going to be a long time coming.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Trillian & Google Talk

    Trillian does support the Jabber protocol, and Google Talk, if only in the $25 Pro version. See http://trillian.cc/features/
    • Not sure that's the same thing

      Gmail Chat is integrated directly into the Gmail browser window, whereas Google Talk appears to be a separate app. I don't know enough about any of these technologies to be sure, but I don't see anything that suggests Gmail Chat uses Jabber.

      Which means there's yet one more IM client to throw into the mix!
      Ed Bott
      • Gmail chat and Google Talk

        Gmail Chat and Google Talk are the same thing and both use the Jabber XMPP protocol. I can use Trillian Pro to talk to people using Gmail in a web browser.

        Google are, apparently, taking the interoperability line seriously and I seem to remember talk of a possible partnership between AOL and Google to allow users of the two services (and probably ICQ) to communicate with each other. But, as you say, while alliances are being made it will still mean we have several distinct networks.

        Also, Trillian Pro also supports Skype through a plugin, but you also need to have Skype installed and running for it to work. The idea of text-only support for Skype in the Mac client Adium has been floated, though.
  • What about Gaim???

    I have used Gaim to connect to MSN/Yahoo/AOL(ICQ)
    for a while now.
    it has a good interface, it is free, and it works much better then trillian (used trillian before, did not like it very much).
    • Yes, gaim!

      It's cross-platform as well, and has a multitude of useful and/or entertaining plugins to enhance the experience.

  • Why go the long way around ?

    Havn't we learnt our lesson yet ?

    We have a standard data transfer mechanism for instant messengers for some time. Yes kids, its called Jabber.

    It contains the basic functionality for your instant messenger needs, and then can embed "binary streams" of voicexml and maybe even video XML too.

    Email works for everyone, guess why.. because it works on a standard interface that is "unable to change", why ? Because if it changes someone wont get their mail and that makes people in suits very unhappy.

    I'm preaching the standards mantra here. It doesnt matter which client you use. The real advantage of standards based communication is that small events like this will not make the news, they'll happen organically.

    Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
    • Good point

      A quick search reveals that Jabber's already an IIETF standard: XMPP.

      Ed Bott
  • Drum circle

    Google are there already. Why don't MS and Yahoo both use Jabber?
    • That one is easy,

      Becouse they cant look customers in with that protocoll.