There were two instant messaging releases shipped yesterday from two of the major online players.

  1. Google Talk Beta: Google has finally shipped an instant messaging application as we all expected. You can get the scoop from Joe Beda's post Welcome To Google Talk. It seems Joe is one of the folks at Google who helped ship this. From his post we learn they provide
    • Instant messaging server based on the XMPP/Jabber protocol.  This is an IETF approved protocol.  Check out for more info.
    • Out of the box support for many third party clients.  Choose iChat, Gaim, Trillian or a host of others.  We support them from day one.
    • Our own client available for download from  We've concentrated on a simple to use and clean interface.  We've tried to strip IM down to its essence.
    • Support for voice calls between clients that just work.  We've worked hard to support all sorts of network topologies.  We are also using first class industry leading audio codecs.
    • A commitment to openness moving forward.  Choose your platform (Window, Mac, Linux, etc), choose your client (ours or others) and choose your service provider (we are commited to federation).  We want to make IM as open as the web or email.
  2. MSN Messenger 7.5: MSN shipped to its instant messaging client yesterday. You can get the scoop in Leah Pearlman's post MSN Messenger 7.5 - I can't believe It's Not Beta. From her post we learn that some of the new features are
    • Dynamic Backgrounds: Backgrounds that subtly animate in cool ways.

    • Voice Clip: Press and hold the Voice Clip button (or F2) and record up to 15 seconds of your voice or anything. When you release, it goes to your buddies just like an IM, and they can hear it instantly upon receipt.
    • Freaking Awesome Audio Quality Improvements: Yes, that’s the technical name. Our new audio technology makes free Voice (Voip) calls super-clear. Mostly thanks to much improved echo-cancellation. It’s now just like using a phone except: "Look ma! No hands!"
    • Patching: Due to the plethora of features in the Messenger client the download size has grown. In the future, instead of having to download the entire client each time an particular release is updated, we can download a small patch, on the order of 100K on to the user’s machine instead.

Google's entrance into the instant messaging landscape is interesting although unsurprising. As usual Google has entered the space with a disruptive move but instead of the move being the feature set of its IM client it is by not treating their IM network as a walled garden as AOL, MSN and Yahoo! have done. People aren't restricted to the Google Talk client and anyone can write a client application to connect people within their network. I'm not sure this is a smart move but it definitely is a disruptive one.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005 6:31:09 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Well, it appears to be something of a walled garden:
Wednesday, August 24, 2005 6:42:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"I'm not sure this is a smart move"

It's a completely smart move. IM is wholly unusable today because of the walled gardens.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005 7:00:48 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
After about a half hour playing with it this morning, the user experience is like ICQ 97. It's funny how over time one becomes *so* used to certain features that it's surprising not to find them. For example, a ton of my IM usage is for file transfer - if there is support for that in Google Talk I didn't find it. Rather it seemed to allow you to open up a Gmail window and send a message.

Thursday, August 25, 2005 12:46:02 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It's a very smart movie. It recognizes that the walls in the walled garden aren't very high. With the other IMs, novice users just use the client for the service because the client has the name they know. Power uses grab something like gaim or Trillian. Despite the walls, those clients still work.

By making the standard open, Google doesn't have to waste time trying to keep the power user clients like gaim or trillian out, and at the same time, gets to support Linux and OS/X for free.

Putting up walls really wouldn't make sense for Google. Walls are, at best, for keeping customers. As a new entrant, Google needs to gain new ones, and I think they recognize that what gets them new customers is their name.
Steve Burnap
Thursday, August 25, 2005 1:49:17 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"With the other IMs, novice users just use the client for the service because the client has the name they know."

Actually, novice users use whatever their friends are using. How many times have you heard someone say they use some IM program because that is what all their friends use? This is the main reason AOL is the dominant IM vendor in the US (over 40 million users) and Yahoo! is a distant second (20 million users).

I personally think it is putting a lot of faith in the Google brand to think it'll make a significant dent in these numbers.
Thursday, August 25, 2005 4:21:10 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
That's pretty much what I mean. Novices use AIM or MSN or whatever their friends use. It's only power users that try to stray outside the "walls" with multi-network clients.

I don't know that Google will win or lose. I do think that if Google does win, it'll be on the name.
Steve Burnap
Thursday, August 25, 2005 8:24:24 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I don't know whether Google is going to win or loose this IM War. But one thing is sure, they have started yet another product war (IM in this case) and since the completion is going to be very high and lot of big names are going to get affected (like MSN, Yahoo, AOL) the end users are going to be the real winners.

The thing which happened to Email is going to happen to IM also and I am sure lot of new and innovative features are on the way as these big giants clash for market share.

Hope IM becomes open like email soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2005 10:18:35 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Isn't it smart to be disruptive?
Thursday, August 25, 2005 5:15:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Being disruptive is smart if it strengthens your position or destabilizes your competitions position enough for you to take advantage of it. If not, you are wasting resources and perhaps even poisoning the well for everyone. One example of a company that is disruptive yet doesn't seem to benefit as much as it could from it is Sun Microsystems.
Thursday, August 25, 2005 10:11:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Given that Google's IM market share is (or at least was a week ago) 0%, they don't have much to lose by being disruptive. Given the nature of the client, I doubt they're using much in the way of resources.
Saturday, August 27, 2005 11:09:44 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I remember back when MSN introduced Messenger. There was this talk about interoperatbilty and Microsoft was all for it. 5 years later we still cannot communicate with our friends using Y!, MSN, AIM nor ICQ. I guess Microsoft and the other realized that there was more to gain in keeping the tie-ins instead?

I really hope Google will get more people over to the open IM networks and Y!, MSN AIM and ICQ will be like CompuServe was to email.

Btw, my MSN has this bug that from time to time it shakes like there is an earthquake. And the background image is for some reason changing. If I wanted a game as a chat client I would use Ultime Online :-)
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