Microsoft and Yahoo announced today that they're beginning to test interoperability between Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. Together, the two instant messaging clients have about 350 million users.
Users will now be able to use one client to chat between the two services.
Of course, that's been possible for a while with clients like Trillian and Meebo, but shhh, let's plug along, shall we? (ed.: no no no, you can use Trillian and Meebo to access multiple services at once, but not send messages between them)
The two companies first announced plans to interoperate last October.
On the face of it, Microsoft and Yahoo's interoperability seems like it draws pretty clear lines in the sand. On one side are Microsoft, Yahoo and eBay/Skype. On the other, Google and AOL.
Microsoft and Yahoo have been busy improving their chat products. And by joining forces, Microsoft and Yahoo compete better against AOL's IM service. That translates somewhat to competing with Google, which has a 5 percent stake in AOL. (If I remember correctly, Microsoft wanted AOL to open up its IM protocol back in '99. But that whole history is kinda confusing to me.)
I'm sure both Microsoft and Yahoo have put two and two together and realized that if AOL tears down its pay wall, Google will probably benefit.
Meanwhile, Yahoo and eBay got cozier recently when they announced a new advertising initiative. And eBay, apparently worried about competition with PayPal, recently banned Google Checkout from its online auctions.
But Google Talk isn't playing well with anybody. The service has been lauded for its excellent call quality, but adoption lags (it's ranked as the 10th most popular service by ComScore). Then again, Google's online hegemony means it doesn't need to wow anyone with any one single product. Each of Google's products are simply value adds to its main product,
AdSense AdWords. As long as Google continues to gain market share in that area, its other products -- Calendar, Spreadsheets, Talk -- will follow.
update: Anil, I mean hegemony. Leader, dominator, etc. They control over 60% of the online advertising market. They're integrating some of their products into their advertising strategy -- i.e., click to call -- which to me means the products are value ads. But yes, mistakes. Apologies. It happens at quittin time when I'm bleary-eyed. I'll be more careful.
I understand GTalk is based on Jabber, and that Jabber is an open protocol. But the fact remains that relatively speaking, few people are using GTalk as their main IM service (i.e., GTalk isn't playing well with others). Mike, Souterrain, MS and Yahoo have no economic incentive to support the Jabber protocol and interoperate with GTalk. Look, I like Google. But it's very easy to be the last to enter the IM market saying you support an open protocol. It's kinda the only option left on the table if you want to compete.