Washington Post on the Crack in the IM Wall

Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post has an article about the crack that has developed in the IM wall thanks to the deal between Microsoft and Yahoo to allow their IM clients to cross proprietary borders and communicate with each other.

In addition to pointing out the fact that users have to have the latest version of each application to speak cross-network and outlining some some hiccups that have occurred thanks to the lack of an open standard and the resulting difficulty in erecting a bridge between two walled-in networks, Rob also describes the main reason my use of IM clients is very limited:

“Unfortunately, both program’s installers are as pushy as ever about adding browser toolbars, loading extra start-up software, and changing your home-page and Web-search preferences; choose custom-install to opt out of those intrusions.”

I call this the Real Player Syndrome. It’s the genesis of my intense dislike of everything Real- well, that and the fact they make you call them to unsubscribe to things you subscribed to online.

In the race to add features, the IM applications have become bloated caricatures of their former selves. People don’t want to use IM applications as browser-substitutes. They just want to be able to chat with other people, without network limitations.

And what about AOL? Rob says that AOL may be tiptoeing in the right direction:

“AOL is no longer reflexively hostile to letting outsiders hook into its system, having stopped trying to block AIM-compatible third-party software. But the company has only tiptoed toward interoperability, opening its network strictly to far smaller competitors. For instance, users of Apple’s .Mac service have been able to tie into AIM since 2002, and AOL says that by the end of the year, the Google Talk network will also connect to AIM.”

It’s a risky business for the IM applications with the biggest market share to knock down the walls and allow cross-network communication. But it’s inevitable and it will happen.

There’s a crack in the wall. Let’s sit back and watch it grow.