AOL Is Stalling The Advancement Of Instant Messaging Among Businesses
AOL Chairman Steve Case and crew are stalling the advancements needed for instant messaging to reach its full potential. If AOL doesn't wake up, and fast, by truly opening up interoperability between its AOL Instant Messenger and competitive products, the next year could see it lose share to rivals.
Instant messaging is a classic example of product adoption happening outside of the control of centralized IT organizations.
My company is a good example. I communicate more often with my team via instant messaging than I do via e-mail. It's faster, less cluttered, and I don't have to wait for hours or days for someone to respond. I know if someone is online or not, which lets me quickly touch down on a issue and move on. I also increasingly use instant messaging to communicate with people outside the organization. Not only is it quick, but the user controls his or her own buddy list, or those authorized to send them a message, and therefore can lock out spam.
Because AOL will not allow interoperability with Microsoft's and Yahoo's respective versions of instant messaging, the market is missing out on an opportunity to advance this category.
This industry is littered with companies that failed or became less relevant because they refused to open up their technology. Apple is an excellent example of a company that would have likely benefited by freely licensing its technology, thereby making it the standard.
As instant messaging increasingly is adopted by individuals inside of organizations without the blessing of IT, there is opportunity for third-party vendors and solution providers to bring discipline to the product. IBM's Lotus Software group, for example, next month is scheduled to release a new version of its own instant messaging technology, Sametime, which it is billing as an enterprise-class secure instant messaging product.
Lotus is onto something here. For solution providers, there is an opportunity in taking a product like Sametime and using it to solve customer issues around instant messaging, such as difficulty in capturing and archiving messages in the same manner as e-mail. In some organizations, there is a real need for this. Consider a brokerage house. Using instant messaging, a broker could converse quickly with clients. Archiving those messages would allow the broker to adhere to regulations that require him or her to keep records of that dialog.
There are security issues around instant messaging, which is why some organizations prohibit its use. But many people still manage to use instant messaging despite corporate prohibitions.
Users of Lotus Sametime and AIM can communicate with each other as a result of an agreement between the two companies. But Case and the AOL executive team need to extend this interoperability to other instant messaging technologies. This would inspire a host of third-party products that improve upon the basic service.
The instant messaging product category is going to grow with or without AOL. Over time, it will eclipse e-mail in much the same way that the use of facsimile machines hurt overnight mail delivery and e-mail overtook the fax.
AOL claims one reason it is so tight with AIM is that it wants to control spam. For those of us with full AOL accounts, that's just laughable, considering this company all but invented spam. It's time for Case to stop being so pig-headed and let AOL open up its standard. Or, in my opinion, it will be displaced by some company that improves so much on instant messaging that we will all want to switch.
Make something happen. I can be reached at (516) 562-7812 or via e-mail at [email protected].