Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Following up an earlier post about how my AOL Instant Messenger account is hosed...

eWeek has another update. eWeek interviews David Ferris from a market-research company who says, "One of the things that ought to happen is that companies need to be prepared to pay for more reliable service, but they're generally not prepared to do so." Ooo. Scary. Actually, maybe that should read "companies need to prepare to run their own IM servers that use interoperable standards." I wonder if AOL is thinking of charging for IM. This reminds me of a comment by someone from AOL at a conference that I recently participated in. I was suggesting that "presence" should be free and interoperable and people should try to make money building applications on top of "presence". The person from AOL said, "users will pay if they have no choice." Instant Messenger is a very good example of bad technology from the bubble era when people like AOL had double digit market share of Internet users. Why can't AOL users message MSN users? Because they have tried to keep users in a walled garden. This is exactly why the total number of AOL users hasn't been growing and their market share is shriveling. The Internet is ABOUT choice and interoperability. This whole idea of making walled gardens and trying to charge them because "they don't have a choice" is so misguided that it actually doesn't make business sense. The main reasons I was using AIM was because of iChat. Does anyone know why Apple went with iChat instead of something open like Jabber? Maybe this glitch is a good thing. Maybe "all this grief for no revenue" will cause AOL to charge money for IM and drive their users away to Jabber. Quick, someone write a better Jabber client.


Apparently, iChat will support Jabber in Tiger:

Not only is Apple going to support the Jabber protocol in the next version of iChat, they also bring out a Jabber server on Tiger server alongside. Also, the "Rendezvous" iChat protocol was always using the Jabber protocol already.

Adium on the Mac is already the next-generation client you're looking for. It's not finished yet but it shows a lot of promise, especially for people who need to work with more than one network.

That's good news about Jabber. I love Adium.

as far as Jabber clients go, i'm actually quite partial to Gaim - which conveniently works on both Win and Linux, so i'd love to see Gaim for Lin/Win and iChat for OS-Xers.

Gaim may not be as slick as MSN or Yahoo, but it's at least as good as the stagnated AIM clieent.

Well I use either "Simple Instant Messenger" under linux or miranda under win32. Both manage at least icq / msn / yahoo / jabber and come with lot of plugins.

The main problem with jabber is that nobody use it. So it's hard to start using it to talk to self ;o)

Well, these multi-protocol chat clients are definitely better than nothing if you're into just one-on-one, but when you are trying to introduce people across different networks, it still totally breaks down. Why should everyone have to have multiple accounts?

I use IM very seldom and iChat has been enough for me. I dont want to deal with the hassle of multiple networks/address books/etc. I investigated Jabber for use within my department at work and was severely underwhelmed by it. Sure I could run a server off my Linux workstation and support W32 and Linux clients, but I found the clients really lacking and when I showed them to other IT users, they looked at me as though I had birds flying out of my ears. I think Jabber + Rendevous could solve some of the problems in this situation but that is for intranets only.

Its nice that iChat can ride on the AIM network, I dont know the specifics of the deal between AOL & Apple, but its obvious that some money must have changed hands. Running public servers costs money and time. Its all fine and dandy for users to fuss about how hard it is to deal with multiple networks, but where is the incentive for anyone to run multiprotocol or open protocol servers? If there is no revenue stream attached, it aint worth it. Without a stable backend that requires zero user knowledge, IM is doomed to be a geek thing.

Chris, what's the difference between email and IM on that regard? Isn't the network effect worth the effort to standardize on an open protocol?

Joi, I see your point and its valid. I'm sure much smarter people than I have thought about this from that perspective. Email is lucky that it is just text (attachments are sent as text too). All the horrid HTML mail stuff works because its also just text. IM aint just text though. People actually want all the smileys and audio/video stuff. I can see how that makes it 1) harder to standardize, 2) harder to persuade anyone they should run their own IM server ("you want me to let WHAT through the firewall?").

Thanks for pointing out the error of my thinking though.

We just need an IMSC. Instant Messenger Smiley Consortium. ;-p has a program that breaks down the "walled gardens" and lets you chat with people from MSN, AIM, IRC, ICQ, and YIM. It's great.

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