Imici newest instant messenger blocked by AOL

Imici, which is owned by Budokan LLC, operates an instant messaging program which was blocked from interoperability three times Thursday by AOL, according to Jefferson Jewell, chief operating officer of Imici. AOL has tried to block Imici from eight to 11 times in total since Imici launched its service in July. Each time, Imici programmers modified their service's code and regained interoperability, he said. "At first it took a while, but (regaining interoperability with AOL's service has gotten) shorter and shorter."

AOL's Instant Messenger holds a commanding lead in the instant messaging market with about 60 million users. Imici, founded in January, has about 5,000 users.

AOL has had similar programming duels with other providers of instant messaging services, including Microsoft and CMGI's subsidiary Tribal Voice. AOL did not contact Imici before blocking its service, said Jewell. AOL spokespeople weren't immediately available for comment. In the past, AOL has justified blocking other services by saying it does so to protect the privacy and online security of its subscribers.

The Internet Engineering Task Force is working to develop a common open standard for instant messages, an effort expected to improve the interoperability of competing services.

A white paper released last month and signed by several companies developing or marketing instant messaging services charges AOL with "inappropriately (using) security and privacy concerns as justification for blocking open communication."

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