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Tue, 30 Aug 2005
Modern Attraction and Instant Messaging

Sunday afternoon we trucked over to the other side of the water to hang out with Maryam and Robert Scoble. (Good thing that I'm a Spouse Of a Friend Of Maryam). As Robert mentioned, there were a bunch of geek males standing around and talking about various stuff.

I can't remember the precise twists and turns of the conversation, but at one point we were discussing pleasing one's user's versus trying to block one's competitors. The specific situation was the various instant messaging silos, a predictable turn of conversation, given Joe Beda's Google Talk T-Shirt. The gist of it was that the owners of the existing IM networks are too busy trying to block each other to bother about what their users want, which is mostly to eliminate the need to run one client for each network (and yes, that includes the uber clients like gaim, Trillian, and so forth). Never mind actual innovations in IM client features...

Today I was catching up on blogs and noticed that many of the problems that came up in that conversation were listed in the table in Kathy Sierra's posting on Modern Attraction/neo-marketing. (Yes, I'm making you go there, and I swear that Kathy is not paying me anything to keep referencing her blog). The IM companies are doing stuff the old-school marketing (and business) way. There's a huge opportunity for someone in the IM space to try the Modern Attraction way. I hope that Google gets this. I know that Joe Beda at least gets this, because we spent a while talking about it.

Lots of people are up in arms about IM clients. People are complaining about the Windows client for Google Talk. People are complaining about the lack of Mac and Linux clients. But I think that this is misguided. The real value and potential in Google Talk is that Google might be building an open, un-siloed IM network. It will be interesting to see whether "don't be evil" actually works in this case, because starting another closed, siloed IM network would definitely count as evil (not to mention pointless) in my book.

There's a nice parallel to what is happening in the internet telephony space. Skype is like the existing IM companies. They have a lot of users, they have their network, and they are guarding the door of the network. The saving grace of Skype is that it works pretty well. That's the only reason why I use it. Skype's control over it's network is something that I don't like. They totally have a right to keep it closed, and I totally have the right to switch to another provider. Assuming of course, that I could find a decent one. Same problem as IM.

The thing is, that as long as the IM and internet telephony networks are closed, that means that the companies that control them are barriers to innovation in those spaces. It's not hard to imaging all kinds of cool features that you'd like to have in your IM client or your internet telephony client, or preferably, your converged IM, voice, and video chat client. But it's hard to do that cool stuff without access to the network. If we want to see the Greasemonkey for IM, the GreaseMonkey for voice, and the GreaseMonkey for video(!), then we need to see open networks where the authors of clients (and possibly even servers) and innovate while remaining interoperable.

Okay Google, so don't be evil on this...

[00:58] | [computers/internet] | # | TB | F | G | 4 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
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I work at the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF).
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