New coalition seeks to bring consumer closer to an interoperability solution

Today, leading technology and instant messaging (IM) companies announced the launch of a new coalition called IMUnified. The goal of this coalition is to rapidly enable users of all members' instant messaging services to communicate with each other in a seamless, convenient, private and secure manner. The founding members of IMUnified are AT&T, Excite@Home, iCAST, MSN, Odigo, Phone.com, Prodigy, Tribal Voice, and Yahoo!.

IMUnified intends to publish by the end of August a set of specifications that will enable functional interoperability among their members' instant messaging services. Coalition members plan to implement publicly available, functional interoperability during the fall. IMUnified intends to be among the first to support protocols developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in its efforts to create standards for IM interoperability.

"Internet users want to exchange instant messages with each other, regardless of which service they use. We welcome the participation of other interested IM companies who share the vision of interoperability based on open standards and encourage them to join our efforts," said Brian Park, senior producer, Yahoo!, Inc.

"An open standard for instant messaging will be a big win for the users of all of our services. We are committed to supporting the creation of an open standards solution based on the work going on at the IETF," said Ross Bagully, CEO, Tribal Voice. "Today's announcement brings us one step closer to making open communication between all instant messaging services a reality."

Initially, IMUnified will build upon technologies already used by many coalition members to enable their Internet users to communicate freely with each other. IMUnified will subsequently focus its efforts on the implementation of deeper interoperability, rapidly incorporating the emerging specifications of the IETF standards process. The ultimate vision of IMUnified is to enable all users of instant messaging services to communicate freely with each other in the same simple and seamless manner they have come to expect from phone and e-mail-based communication. In addition, the coalition is fully committed to protecting users' privacy and security in the implementation of interoperable IM.

"One of the things that makes this coalition so exciting is the opportunity to work together and learn from each other so that we can create a system that is even more private and more secure than what is available today." said Yusuf Mehdi, vice president of Consumer Group for Microsoft Corp.

Not only does interoperability affect the present state of IM, but it can significantly impact future innovation. The emergence of wireless IM draws attention to the lack of IM interoperability, as wireless users accustomed to placing calls to anyone will logically demand the same degree of flexibility with respect to instant messaging.

"Web-enabled wireless phones will put 'always-on' IM in the pockets of hundreds of millions of new users around the world. We want to give each and every one of these new users the broadest amount of choice and flexibility when they seek to reach out and communicate with others," said Marc Linden, Group Vice President, Carrier Applications, Phone.com.

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