Microsoft Corp. is developing a licensing program for third-party instant messaging clients and services that want to continue accessing its .Net Messaging Service, but it comes with a catch.
Microsoft cant guarantee that formal licensing terms and conditions will be ready in time to meet the Oct. 15 cutoff it set for blocking unauthorized IM clients and services from connecting into its messaging network because of security and privacy concerns.
"Its likely going to take longer than (Oct. 15) for formal licensing," said Lisa Gurry, group product manager for Microsofts MSN. "Theres a lot of work that has to be done. ... It will be more of a long-term process."
Last week, Microsoft began notifying some of the affected third parties about the change last week, but Gurry said the company doesnt know the full extent of other clients and services connecting into its IM network.
In a certified letter viewed by eWEEK, Microsoft pointed third parties to an online form to be considered for a "possible licensing relationship with Microsoft." The form asks for such information as contact information, products accessing the .Net Messaging Service and number of users.
Gurry said the Redmond, Wash., software maker decided to block unauthorized access primarily for the same reason it is requiring users of older versions of MSN Messenger and Windows Messenger to upgrade: to improve the networks security and privacy.
"Ideally, wed know the folks on the network," Gurry said. "The way third-party services are being built without our permission, we dont know who is on the network."
But developers of open-source IM clients say that while upgrading clients might improve security, blocking third-party access wont.
"Using security as an excuse to apply stricter licensing on competing software is … just ridiculous," wrote Martin Öberg, project manager for Miranda IM, in an e-mail interview. "If their protocol was secure, then a badly written client would never be able to do anything harmful."
Unauthorized access also adds a burden to the messaging network running on Microsofts servers, Gurry said. Microsoft must maintain the networks quality of service but has no control over traffic coming from other clients and services. Microsoft has 100 million worldwide users of its IM service.
Next page: Will licensing help or hurt IM industry?