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October 12, 2005updated 19 Aug 2016 10:11am

Microsoft, Yahoo IM Deal Aimed Not Only at AOL

News that Microsoft and Yahoo are forging an agreement that enables users of each of their instant messaging (IM) applications to talk to one another is aimed at competing more effectively with the current IM champion, AOL. But it could also be a

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News that Microsoft and Yahoo are forging an agreement that enables users of each of their instant messaging (IM) applications to talk to one another is aimed at competing more effectively with the current IM champion, AOL. But it could also be a pre-emptive strike against Google’s IM ambitions.

AOL’s AIM had more than 50 million US users at last count, compared with around 27 million for Microsoft’s MSN Messenger and almost 22 million for Yahoo’s Messenger. By enabling MSN and Yahoo users to IM each other, Microsoft and Yahoo can put up a more robust fight against AOL dominance of the IM space.

But they may also be getting in a pre-emptive strike against Google. Google released Google Talk this summer, a bare-bones IM client with VoIP functionality, and promised server-side interconnect with IM networks from rivals EarthLink and SIPphone. While it’s too early to tell how successful Google Talk will be, the search company does have a large and loyal following and an increasingly powerful brand. And its IM software runs a different protocol to the one favored by Microsoft and Yahoo.

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There is also the possibly that Google may one day integrate IM functionality into the Google Toolbar. Rumours in that direction have been rife in the ‘blogosphere’ for some time – then again, there are few things that Google has not been rumoured to be up to at one time or another.

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