MSN and Yahoo jointly announced that they are setting up interoperability between their previously separate MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger global instant messaging communities. Logging on to either MSN Messenger or Yahoo Messenger will enable a user to engage in IM sessions with registered users of both communities. Beta testing will commence later this year, with full rollout scheduled for Q2 2006.
MSN and Yahoo claim a combined registered user base in excess of 275 million worldwide.
What technology is used?
The technical implementation is based on SIP/Simple, and involves gateways between the proprietary technology platforms used by MSN and Yahoo. The companies plan to converge towards a common technology platform over time, though no timescale has been given for that.
What does this mean for AOL? Might it draw users away?
Probably not, in my view. People want to communicate with other people, not with IM brands. If your friend is on AOL, and you want to IM with that friend, then you need to be on AOL too. The interoperability between MSN and Yahoo will not change that. Both MSN and Yahoo acknowledge that their users would like interoperability with AOL, but there are no public plans for that at present.
It's worth noting that AOL's attitude to interoperability in the past has been characterised by reluctance at best, and outright hostility at worst.
Will it help dent the popularity of Google and its drive to be dominant in the market?
In my opinion, the biggest external driver for this announcement must be MSN and Yahoo's mutual need to defend themselves in the long term against Google. Both MSN and Yahoo have big user bases for internet communications services: instant messaging and email. Google is a relatively recent insurgent in these services, but it is clearly determined to grow its presence there aggresively. The most important objective for an internet portal is to make itself attractive to advertisers: the bigger your base of registered users, the bigger is the audience that you can offer to advertisers. By combining their IM user bases, MSN and Yahoo 'raise the bar' that Google would need to clear to establish dominance as an IM provider, to a very high level.
How might it impact the VOIP/telecoms industry?
This announcement does not involve VoIP. However, both MSN and Yahoo have made recent technology acquisitions (Teleo and Dialpad respectively), in order to develop VoIP services. Although they are currently focusing on IM interoperability, MSN and Yahoo state that interoperability between their VoIP services is also on the roadmap at some future point.
It's important to note that this is another area in which they would meet Google head-to-head, owing to the recently announced Google Talk service.
However, the impact on telcos is likely to be minor for the foreseeable future, as all these VoIP services are will be used exclusively, or at least predominantly, for PC-to-PC conversations.
John Delaney is Principal Analyst,
Give your story premium visibility!