By Eric Auchard
Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. said on Wednesday they have begun a
limited public test to allow users of the companies' respective
instant messaging programs to trade messages with one another.
The agreement to work together, first announced last October, marks a
long-awaited breakthrough among major instant messaging services,
which include AOL's pioneering AIM service, Microsoft and Yahoo, along
with more recent upstarts including eBay Inc.'s Skype and Google's
Specifically, users of an upgraded version of MSN Messenger, recently
rebranded "Windows Live," can trade messages with Yahoo Messenger,
creating the world's largest instant messaging community, with 350
These instant messaging, or IM, systems allow users to type messages
to others on their "buddy list" via computers and in some cases over
mobile phones. Historically, each provider sought to create "walled
gardens" that prevented users of one IM system from talking to users
of rival systems.
AOL agreed in December to make its U.S.-market-leading AIM eventually
work with, or to use the technical terminology, "interoperate," with
Google Talk, but no date has been set to do so. AIM users can already
chat with users of Apple Computer Inc.'s iChat system for Macintosh
computers. Google and AIM work with various other independent IM
With the Yahoo and Windows deal, icons will allows users to
distinguish which program their IM contacts are using.
Executives said the two companies were initially testing how to allow
their vast audience bases to trade text messages. IM users eventually
will be allowed to make voice calls between the two systems, but no
specific timeline has been set.
"We are taking the crawl, walk, run approach," Blake Irving, corporate
vice president, Windows Live Platform, said in a phone
interview. "(Voice) is the feature that we both think is extremely
important" to add eventually, he said.
Yahoo and Microsoft said they plan to make interoperability between
their services broadly available in the coming months.
Users can register to join the test at http://messenger.yahoo.com or
It is available in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada (English and
French), China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Korea,
Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, Britain and the
United States (English and Spanish).
Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg said the Microsoft-Yahoo tie-up
marks the culmination of years of jockeying for market share by IM
providers. "We have had people say they are working on
interoperability for the better part of a decade," he said.
"Consumers have pretty much settled in and defined their preferred IM
systems and buddy lists," he said. "It does make it easier for many
consumers who will need to keep one less instant messaging system up
and running now."
U.S. Internet traffic measurement firm Nielsen//NetRatings data shows
AIM with 47.2 million users in June, compared with 28.0 million
MSN/Windows Live users and 22.5 million Yahoo Messenger users. The
unduplicated audience of Microsoft and Yahoo was 43.5 million
U.S. users, the survey showed.
Yahoo and Microsoft took issue with these numbers, citing comScore
Networks's global figures which showed that Microsoft IM had 204
million users and Yahoo IM had 78 million users worldwide. AIM had 34
million users, the comScore data showed.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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