The agreement brings actual federated IM to the industry after years of mostly talk about the prospect. During a press conference today, the companies said being able to instant message between IM communities is one of the features most requested by MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger users.
The deal means that, in addition to exchanging instant messages, consumers from both communities can see if friends are online or not, swap emoticons and generally communicate without being on the same IM network. Yahoo and Microsoft said they would launch the interconnectivity capabilities between MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger in the second quarter of 2006.
The two companies will look into providing more enhanced features, such as PC-to-PC VoIP, once they get the new IM network servers up and running, which will be based on the SIMPLE protcol. For the time being, IM enhancements will focus on PC-to-PC communications, so Yahoo's recent acquisition of Dialpad Communications technology, picked up in part for its PC-to-Phone service, won't likely fall under that category.
Officials said complexity is the main reason they are not incorporating more features into the interoperable IM service next year. SIMPLE, while a proven technology, has not been scaled to the extent Yahoo and Microsoft want to deliver, they said.
''This is good for consumers; it's just a lot harder to do when you're flying an airplane as fast as these companies are flying and you want to change the engine at the same time,'' said Dan Rosensweig, Yahoo COO, in a press conference. ''We have to get it right.''