Microsoft and Yahoo to link IM networks

Microsoft and Yahoo will make their respective IM networks partly interoperably by Q2 2006.

Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. will make their respective consumer instant-message (IM) networks partly interoperable in the second quarter of next year, the companies announced Wednesday.

This is the first such agreement between major providers of this extremely popular online service, which allows users to communicate in a variety of ways, such as text-message exchanges, PC-to-PC voice chats, voice-over-Internet-Protocol phone calls, photo sharing, file sharing, Webcam video transmission and gaming.

However, communications between MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger users will be limited to exchanging text messages, PC-to-PC voice chatting, sharing some emoticons and adding contacts from both services to their contacts' list, said Dan Rosensweig, Yahoo's chief operating officer, during a press conference. "We're thrilled to be talking to you about interoperability between Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger," he said.

Combined, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger will have an estimated 275 million users, according to the companies. However, America Online Inc.'s (AOL's) AIM service is the single largest IM network in terms of users.

MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and AOL AIM don't interoperate with each other, but there have been ways to get around the problem. For example, Trillian, developed by Cerulean Studios, is an application that consolidates in a single interface IM contacts from a variety of IM services, including those three. While Trillian doesn't solve the interoperability problem, it does prevent users from having to keep an IM buddy-list interface open for each network.

Ironically, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and AOL AIM do interoperate with Microsoft's enterprise IM system Live Communications Server 2005.

AOL AIM interoperates with other IM platforms, such as Apple Computer Inc.'s iChat and Reuters Group PLC's system and AOL's ICQ, a sister IM network to AIM.

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