AOL Slows Efforts To Work With Rival Platforms, Cites Apple's iChat As Example For Future

The Associated Press is reporting that America Online is slowing down its efforts to make its instant messaging system compatible with rival instant messaging systems such as MSN and Yahoo!. The company cited expenses as part of the reason for the decision. In place of the interoperability efforts, AOL intends to focus on other relationships, with Appleis iChat held up as the example. From the article:

Kathy McKiernan, an AOL spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the company thought its resources were better devoted to "alternatives that are available to us now such as the hosted IM relationship with Apple."

Under that arrangement, Apple wrote the software and AOL will handle the message transmissions. AOL developed a way for users on iChat to claim usernames already taken on AOL.

AOLis instant messaging system is currently the leader in instant messaging services with 58 million users. Microsoft MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, and ICQ have 29, 20, and 8 million users, respectively. AOLis decision to slow its interoperability efforts with the competing platforms is an apparent setback to the current effort to standardize instant messages in a way similar to phone service. Again, from the article:

While the rivals have accused AOL of dragging its feet, they missed a self-imposed deadline to enable interoperability among themselves by the end of 2000. In statements, Yahoo and Microsoft would only say they continue to support interoperability.

"Theyive shown in the past couple of years that they would really like to keep hold of their users," said Doug Miles, a spokesman for Imici, which makes stopgap compatibility software. "We could have had interoperability a few years ago with AOLis cooperation."

More information and reaction can be found in the Associated Press article.