AOL locks out competing chat services

"We don't want to chat," appears to be the latest instant message America Online is sending to Microsoft and Yahoo. Evidently, Microsoft's MSN portal and Yahoo are off AOL's buddies list when it comes to AOL's enormously popular Instant Messenger service.

Both Yahoo and MSN this week released versions of their instant messenger programs that could interact with the estimated 25 million users of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). Now Yahoo has confirmed that users of its beta Yahoo Messenger program, released last Thursday, can no longer chat with AIM users. Only a day-old and Microsoft's MSN Messenger was also locked out of AIM, according Microsoft representatives.

AOL changed its instant messaging protocol early Friday morning so that MSN and Yahoo Messenger users couldn't access AIM.

AOL spokesperson Ann Brackbill is adamant that AOL considered MSN's and Yahoo's access to AIM a breach of security and privacy akin to hacking.

As for AOL's support for open standards for instant messaging, Brackbill says, "Unauthorised access to our network is completely different from agreeing on open standards."

Brackbill says AOL hasn't ruled out taking legal action against Microsoft and Yahoo.

Illicit entry?

At the crux of the dispute is the procedure Yahoo and MSN Messenger users have to follow to interact with AIM users. To give their users access to AOL's messaging service, both competing services require their users to log on to AIM through their Yahoo or MSN messaging client. This involves obtaining an AIM account and entering the user name and password for that account.

MSN and Yahoo maintain that they never collect user names and passwords. The vendors say they simply facilitate a third-party log-on to AIM to establish interoperability between clients.

AOL strongly disapproves of Microsoft's and Yahoo's procedures. On Thursday, AOL accused MSN and Yahoo of breaking the "cardinal rule of the Internet" by asking users to divulge their AOL screen name and password. AOL likened MSN and Yahoo to hackers for requesting this type of information from its users.

Attempts to send messages from Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger to AOL Instant Messenger users now result in an "incorrect password/login" error.

Competitive compatibility

In a prepared statement, Microsoft called the situation contrary to users' wishes.

"It is unfortunate that AOL chose to purposely disable the interoperability between the two services -- a solution consumers have clearly been asking for," Microsoft said. "It is clear that AOL is more focused on its proprietary hold on the instant messaging space than [on] what is right for consumers. Microsoft is still committed to providing the interoperability that consumers are demanding via an open-standards approach."

No open standards currently exist, so only people who use the same messaging software can chat online.

The spat among the portal powerhouses has more to do with AOL's fear that Microsoft and Yahoo will undermine its dominance of instant messaging than with security concerns, analysts say. And, they say, it underscores the need for open standards for instant messaging, which would make chatting online as easy as using a telephone.

Representatives of the Internet Engineering Task Force, which is developing open messaging standards, liken the state of instant messaging today to a world in which telephones could make calls only to people using the same phone service.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Spring

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?