ad info




CNN.com
 MAIN PAGE
 WORLD
 ASIANOW
 U.S.
 LOCAL
 POLITICS
 WEATHER
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 TECHNOLOGY
   computing
   personal technology
   space
 NATURE
 ENTERTAINMENT
 BOOKS
 TRAVEL
 FOOD
 HEALTH
 STYLE
 IN-DEPTH

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

  CNN WEB SITES:
CNN Websites
 TIME INC. SITES:
 MORE SERVICES:
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines
 pointcast
 pagenet

 DISCUSSION:
 message boards
 chat
 feedback

 SITE GUIDES:
 help
 contents
 search

 FASTER ACCESS:
 europe
 japan

 WEB SERVICES:
Computing

Standoff persists in instant messaging duel

Instant messenger

 ALSO
   Microsoft instant messenging app sparks code war

   Message Board: Microsoft

   Sign up for the Computer Connection email service

   For more computing stories

INTERACTIVE

Are you in favor of Microsoft's or America Online's position in the instant messenger war?
Microsoft
AOL
Both wrong
View Results

  

July 28, 1999
Web posted at: 5:28 p.m. EDT (2128 GMT)


In this story:

A possible olive branch

Agreement on the interoperability concept

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



By Robin Lloyd
CNN Interactive Senior Writer

(CNN) -- A computer code war that broke out when Microsoft released an instant messaging service that links to America Online's similar, popular service continued Wednesday with no end in sight.

Depending on the time of day, an MSN Messenger instant message sender may or may not be able to type a short message to a friend or colleague using AOL's Instant Messenger, click on the "send" button and have the message appear a second later on the recipient's screen.

MSN Messenger was launched last week to be interoperable with AOL's instant message service, called AIM. Initially, AOL responded by inserting code into its operations to block MSN entry but Microsoft posted a version of its software to circumvent the block within a day.

That scenario has repeated itself four times since Friday and both companies say they refuse to relent.

"We're nowhere different than we were Friday," said AOL spokeswoman Ann Brackbill. AOL will continue to assign coders to work to prevent MSN instant messages from reaching AIM subscribers, she said.

"It is because we remain committed to our users," Brackbill said. "Another company cannot just essentially hack into our system."

Deanna Sanford, lead product manager for Microsoft's messenger service, took the same stance.

"At this point we're still committed to providing that interoperability for consumers," she said. Microsoft has no plan to limit its efforts to work around blocks that AOL may put up, she said.

Like AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger is free, downloadable software.

The Microsoft product is designed to allow its users to tap into the AOL product's client base. AIM, a product with 40 million users and clearly dominant in the field, cannot be used to contact users of other instant messaging services, such as those offered by Yahoo! and Prodigy, let alone Microsoft's service.

In recent days, Yahoo! has introduced Yahoo! Messenger in beta version, and Prodigy has posted a new versions of its instant messaging software. Both are also designed to link with the AOL service. AOL put up code blocks to those products as well.

A possible olive branch

In an attempt to put an end to conflict, which has an air of playground antics, AOL sent a letter Friday to Microsoft demanding an end to the company's entry into the AIM system and asking them to talk about coordinating efforts, according to AOL spokeswoman Brackbill.

Five days later, Microsoft responded without addressing the invitation to coordinate, saying it had done nothing wrong. Instead, the letter dealt with privacy concerns AOL had raised. AOL complains that its users must reveal their passwords to receive messages from those on the MSN message system -- a privacy violation.

Microsoft says the password, once requested, is simply stored on the AIM client's computer or server and used internally to AOL. There is no privacy concern. AOL still objects.

"For us that's irrelevant," Brackbill said. "For us, the user experience is everything."

Agreement on the interoperability concept

Microsoft and AOL agree that the goal is interoperable instant messaging services, but they disagree about how to go about it.

AOL has business agreements for instant messaging with Lotus and IBM that allow interoperability with the AOL messaging service and wants to pursue that avenue with Microsoft, Brackbill said.

AOL contacted Microsoft "months ago" to work on an agreement and believes that eventually the interoperability issue will be worked out, Brackbill said. "Ultimately, we absolutely believe that this is going to be a way to do it, that (instant-messaging people on different systems) is just as easy as e-mail and talking on the telephone."

In contrast, Microsoft wants open standards for message transmission to be adopted so all instant messengers can communicate with one another. That means nobody pays any licensing fees.

Microsoft is heading up an effort for an open standard through an industry consortium it initiated. AOL participates in the consortium, but Microsoft says that AOL has not played an active part.

Nonetheless, the MSN Messenger service is designed to link only to AIM, not to Yahoo! or Prodigy.

AOL objects to Microsoft setting the standard.

"Here you have a company that's just come out and now they're making it sound like we're going to force you accept whatever standard we put up," Brackbill said. "The only thing that's gonna win is what's best."


RELATED STORIES:
Portals in the palm of your hand
July 27, 1999
Microsoft instant messenging app sparks code war
July 23, 1999
Instant messaging: Valuable tool or distraction?
July 13, 1999

RELATED SITES:
AOL Instant Messenger
MSN Messenger Service
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

 LATEST HEADLINES:
SEARCH CNN.com
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.