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July 24, 2001 at 5:00 am #16044BigBlueBall NewsMember
July 24, 2001
AOL Time Warner Inc. said Monday that it has recently begun an internal test to open its coveted instant-messaging service to rivals, and it remains on track to launch a trial with another firm later this summer.
The long-awaited trial could lead the way for a major overhaul in instant messaging, allowing different services to communicate in one massive network. Instant messaging allows Internet users to receive notes almost as fast as they are sent. The notes appear as pop-up windows on a user’s computer screen.
AOL said its trial involves a “leading technology company” it did not name in a report to the Federal Communications Commission. The New York media giant said it is drafting a contract to address such issues as system-performance requirements and cost sharing.
The FCC, concerned about the future of instant messaging, ratified AOLs merger with Time Warner in January on several conditions, including a requirement that AOL submit a progress report on instant-messaging interoperability 180 days after the federal agency issued an order approving the acquisition.
The 11-page report, however, was short on details of the trial and did not say when AOL would actually open its system to rivals; instead, the company devoted much of the report to why interoperability is technically difficult to achieve and fraught with risk to users privacy and security.
Competitors such as Microsoft Corp., which has about 36 million registered users, have long sought AOLs commitment to open its system so that users of different messaging services can communicate with each other.
With more than 100 million registered users, AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, is the market leader in this fast-growing field. AOL also operates two other major instant messaging services—ICQ, which also has more than 100 million registered users, and a system for its more than 30 million online subscribers.
“While we have not had a chance to actually see the [FCC] document, based on our understanding, it does not offer much in terms of standardizing interoperability,” said Bob Visse, group product manager of MSN, Microsoft Corps Internet service provider.
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