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Chapter 25. Enterprise Instant Messaging > The Interoperability Wars

The Interoperability Wars

AOL got a jumpstart on the IM phenomenon with its purchase of Mirabilis in the summer of 1998. Microsoft had to delay its own entry into the space because the company was determined to have its MSN Messenger tightly integrated with Hotmail, its free email service. In late July 1999, MSN Messenger debuted with features similar to those offered by AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ; however, it had one new key feature—the ability to interoperate with AIM. MSN, hoping to tap into AOL's network of some 35 million IM users, had added a bridge to AOL's network, allowing users of MSN to search out and communicate with users on AIM.

AOL immediately responded by changing its protocols, effectively cutting off MSN's efforts to connect to its network. MSN retaliated with yet another patch that circumvented AOL's means of blocking access to its network. Microsoft and Yahoo! were vociferously supporting open standards for IM through the IETF, a volunteer organization that seeks to develop new Internet standards specifications. AOL fought hard to keep “unauthorized hackers” off its proprietary network. The game of cat and mouse continued between Microsoft and AOL for much of the rest of 1999, until Microsoft finally threw in the towel in November, claiming that its efforts to interoperate with AOL IM posed a potential security risk for MSN users.


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