Eight web email companies, including Microsoft, have sent a letter to America Online (AOL) in a last-ditch attempt to stop it from preventing its instant messaging users communicating with non-AOL customers.
The vendors claimed they want AOL, which controls 75 per cent of the market, to adopt an open standards approach to instant messaging, which enables users to exchange messages in near realtime.
Executives from Microsoft, Excite @Home, Infoseek, Yahoo, AT&T, Activerse, Tribal Voice and Prodigy, sent the letter in response to AOL's decision last week to prevent communication between its software and third party instant messaging clients.
The companies have given Steve Case, chief executive of AOL, until the end of this week to reply to their request for AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and ICQ, which was inherited through its acquisition of Mirabilis, to be opened up to third party clients.
AOL was also asked to adopt the Internet Engineering Taskforce's (IETF) Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol standard.
The letter stated: "We ask that you suspend blocking users of non-AOL clients from AIM and provide a means for these clients to talk to ICQ as well. We believe that this is the most practical and fair process for developing a standard."
Analysts believe AOL's desire to keep its technologies proprietary will harm it in the end. Rob Enderle, analyst at Giga Information Group, said: "If AOL wanted to fight for AIM to become a standard, it would win because standards bodies opt for technologies with the biggest market share. But if it does not offer the technologies to standards bodies, then firms such as Microsoft will win."
Following AOL's deal with Apple last week to develop instant messaging products for the Mac, a bulletin from analyst Zona Research added: "There is a war of several technologies and the casualties are users. Apple seems to be snubbing its nose at Microsoft by cuddling up to AOL. Microsoft has found itself in the unfamiliar position of calling for openness and fair play."
Today saw 14 of the UK IT channel's biggest hitters come together to determine the winners of CRN's WiC awards. But what does being a WiC judge actually involve? Doug Woodburn reports
'Smaller firms may struggle to keep up with Microsoft's innovation with Dynamics' says CEO Stuart Fenton after acquiring assets from Profile Enterprise Solutions
Pete Peterson admits the firm hasn't always been the 'easiest company to do business with'
New chief exec Aaron Painter says 'longer-term strategy' could see firm tackle the Asian market