June 19, 2006

Why GoogleTalk is not about Instant Messaging.

The two big names in the messaging industry came out with two major upgrades today. Yahoo announced "Yahoo Messenger 8.0" for Windows platform and MSN released their Windows Live Messenger. While both MSN and Yahoo are offering some form of VoIP support, the big thing for Yahoo was the opening up of the APIs for its messenger and the discussion happening is around its Yahoo! Messenger On-the-Road offering which seems to be some kind of a paid service which will grant you access to more than 30000 wifi spots around the world. On MSN side the big thing is the announcement that Philips is now making Voip handsets with embedded Windows Live Messenger in it. This trend of moving VoIP software to handheld devices is not new, but with Microsoft jumping into the market, it not very surprising why Skype is giving away free minutes.

Which brings this discussion to the third player in this market, Google. While MSN and yahoo are desperately trying attach the kitchen sink to their IM client, Google seems to be less interested in developing standalone "Google Talk" clients and is more interested in gathering generating grass root support with least bottlenecks for the end user. For coming late to the party, thats not too much to ask for.

However what we all miss to see in this picture is that in the IM world, MSN and Yahoo are not very far from what centralized networks like AOL and Compuserv looked like before they hooked up to the internet. Isn't it a shame that you as a user of MSN also have to create a Yahoo, GoogleTalk, ICQ and AOL account just to talk to all of your friends ? And while you can sign up with just one ISP to visit all the websites on the internet is it really necessary to sign up with 10 different service providers just to exchange instant messages with your friends ? After all how different is instant messages from regular email messages ?

When Google decided to use an open protocol called Jabber which has close to 100 different client implementations, they did two things which was not very apparent outright. First they bought themselves a huge developer base which have been screaming about Jabber as an alternative to proprietary protocols. Second they have now forced MSN and Yahoo to acknowledge that inter-IM communication is eventually possible.
Infact, Jabber protocol, unlike other instant messaging protocols was designed ground up like SMTP protocol to be decentralized, flexible and diverse. Its so much alike like SMTP, that from a birds eye view Jabber could look like SMTP in the way it works.

GoogleTalk in short is what Internet was to AOL the reason why Google doesn't care about GoogleTalk client is because Jabber like SMTP can be routed, archived and searched for targeted advertisements.

//p.s. In the current design GoogleTalk is not routable(s2s)... but that hopefully would be fixed soon.

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