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New Research From IETF Is About To Change Your Life

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New Research From IETF Is About To Change Your Life

Posted By Christopher Saunders

The IETF, or the Internet Engineering Task Force, has recently made a breakthrough in their research on geographic linking. Now, the first question that you may ask is, “How will ‘geographic linking’ apply to my everyday life?”. However, let’s start with what exactly geographic linking is, and the research being done about it to keep you, and the people in your life safe.

What is geographic linking?
Geographic linking is a process in which a geographic location is linked, or paired with information that is available for that particular area. The primary concern with visually improving images of the area and the information that is available through geographic linking is if the people who reside in these areas are having their privacy maintained. Which is exactly what the IETF is being wary of while they are improving the optic representations of the geographic areas. To be more specific, the group who is doing the research, and is making sure that the security of everyone is maintained is known as, GEOPRIV.

They are making sure that everyone that is working on the project knows the strict set of protocols that they must follow, to keep everyone’s privacy intact. The guidelines that are being discussed are in a review to make sure that no one’s private information is linked. Once they are finished going over how to execute this, while also focusing on achieving a better experience for the viewer of the locations, or areas, GEOPRIV will apply this to all the other programs. Now that the main concerns about the dangers and the problems that they have run across in their research have been addressed, we can move on to how this will impact your day to day life.

Why Should I Care About The Research The Internet Engineering Task Force Is Doing?
It is important for geographic linking to be improved because as technology is developed, it allows for more accurate and efficient work to be done using it. If the visuals of geographic locations are improved, then it makes it easier for sites and places to be tracked easier and this could allow for better planning of a route to get to the precise location. These improvements could implicate a change in the standards of emergency services such as ambulances and emergency police vehicles. Which means that more crimes are stopped before they could happen, and more lives are saved when people are in need of emergency medical care. If they are successful in finishing the research and can make an efficient program that can precisely and securely represent geographical locations, then they could save hundreds to thousands of lives.Another reason that this research may be relevant to you is that it can allow for other non-emergency services to be done faster and more efficiently.

Mainly travel will be faster and more efficient which means that your commute to work may be faster with this new technology which affects your day to day life. It also affects the services that you use every day, for example, the internet that you are using now to read this may soon be affected by this research. “How?” is the question you might ask, if services are able to go faster, such as services for electricians, or plumbers than those services are being done faster, or more efficiently,(This depends on whether they are using the extra time to do a better job, or if they are using the extra amount of time to do more jobs) and this could mean that life may be more convenient for you. However, while you may say or think that the amount of time that this saves will not be a massive amount, which is true, you have to remember it only takes a few seconds to save a life.

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2003’s Top Trends in IM

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2003’s Top Trends in IM

Posted By Christopher Saunders

Pundits will probably look back on 2003 — at best — as a year of very conservative growth for the instant messaging industry.

But those in the trenches this year deserve a good deal of congratulations. Despite long sales cycles and continued strain on IT budgets, the space experienced some of its largest product launches to date, a number of important alliances among stakeholders, and several key venture capital investments.

A number of key deployments also debuted, in industries ranging from financial services to entertainment, reflecting customers’ response to the gospel long preached by vendors of enterprise IM solutions — describing the benefits of real-time communications and presence awareness associated with the technology.

As 2003 draws to a close, then, looks back at some of the major trends that dominated the headlines during the year — and which will be sure to pave the way for developments in 2004.

Security Woes Aplenty in Public IM

First up, we take a look at an issue close to the hearts and minds of enterprise network security admins everywhere: the continuing threat to corporate infrastructure posed by consumer-grade IM. Instant messaging might be one of the hottest new channels of communications to hit the enterprise, but if it’s not properly regulated, it could easily bring with it a myriad of security headaches.

Of course, this isn’t a new issue. But it remains a constant source of worry for IT staff, and continues to be one of the chief factors behind the sale of enterprise-grade IM solutions.

New threats this year include the increasing use of instant messaging by viruses and worms, as a channel by which to spread. In October, enterprise security technology vendor Symantec released findings that indicated IM-based security threats are seeing a dramatic surge. The firm found that of the top 50 virus threats during the first six months of the year, IM and peer-to-peer technology played a role in 19 — a 400 percent increase from the previous year.

Also this year, Microsoft and Yahoo! each recently required users to upgrade to new versions of their IM clients in response to serious security threats. Despite the networks’ efforts, however, hackers continue finding holes in their clients. Just earlier this month, security researchers found a possible vulnerability in Yahoo! Messenger, for instance. And as public IM continues to grow in the workplace, these security holes seem likely to only increase in frequency.

Application Integration

On a brighter note, strides were made this year in linking enterprise instant messaging systems to other applications in the workplace — which raises the ROI of IM deployments and broadens their utility to businesses.

For one thing, Lotus began executing on its Workplace strategy and related product line. Workplace product components will be available individually or in a package, and portions of their features can be integrated with other apps through Web services. In Workplace 1.1, released in November, Lotus debuted new offerings integrating Web conferencing and IM capabilities from Lotus Team Workplace 3 (a product previously known as QuickPlace, and not part of the Workplace initiative) and Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing (formerly Sametime).

In Lotus Notes and Domino 6.5, the software giant more closely integrated Lotus Instant Messaging functionality, in an effort to give users presence capabilities that let them see when co-workers or other colleagues are online and ready to accept messages. From there, workers will have the capability to initiate an instant messaging session directly from their inboxes, from e-mail fields, or from an integrated contact list.

That’s a strategy similar to what Microsoft is pursuing with its Office System suite of applications. In connection with Office Live Communications Server, the enterprise IM server formerly known as “Greenwich,” Office applications like Word, SharePoint Team Services and Outlook can be enhanced with built-in presence-detection, contact lists, and instant messaging. Microsoft finally unleashed Live Communications Server in the year’s biggest product launch, in late October.

Both Microsoft and IBM see IM and presence being syndicated to third-party applications. As part of the new Notes and Domino release, Lotus Domino Designer will allow developers to add presence capabilities to applications that run inside of a Notes or Domino application layer. Microsoft is providing tools to allow for similar connectivity directly to customers, and through a bevy of partners.

Other giants are following suit. Like IBM and Microsoft, Sun’s recently revamped IM offering increases integration with other components of its business productivity suite, the Sun ONE Collaborative Business Platform.

Yahoo! also is getting into the action, with efforts to make it easier for third-party application developers to integrate Yahoo! Business Messenger into their systems. For instance, the company struck a deal with BEA Systems and PeopleSoft.

Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft’s Enterprise Portal 8.8 also links to IBM Lotus Sametime, as well as Microsoft’s Live Communications Server. Later in the year, America Online’s AIM also signed on with PeopleSoft.

Efforts in unified messaging — integrating IM into telephony and voicemail systems — got a boost from such stalwarts in the field as Cisco and Siemens. With the launch of OpenScape in spring, Siemens took the wraps off its play in IM and UM, using an offering based on Microsoft’s Live Communications Server. Meanwhile, Cisco discussed plans to more closely embed IM in its unified messaging products.

Lights, Camera, IM: Multimedia Rising

In addition to tying IM into business applications, the major players in instant messaging are making efforts to build-in additional, richer forms of communications — making it easier for two parties to escalate their conversation from text chat to audio, video, and Web-sharing, as needed.

Much of the progress in linking IM and multimedia this year has come from the players in public IM. Following its having successfully petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to relax earlier restrictions, and after introducing some earlier, stopgap features, AOL is planning to unveil streaming video messaging.

Microsoft, too, has been busily enhancing multimedia features in MSN Messenger. This year, it allied itself with Webcam giant Logitech to incorporate the firm’s technology into its IM client.

In the realm of purely enterprise applications, IM management gateway provider FaceTime hooked up with online conferencing player Latitude (now being acquired by Cisco). The integration agreement between the firms enables IM users to easily migrate from chat sessions into Web conferencing.

Meanwhile, Yahoo! — which has long offered video through its public IM network — inked its deal with WebEx to provide for on-demand, ad hoc Web conferencing sessions launched via the Yahoo! Business Messenger IM client.

In more recent weeks, WiredRed added Web conferencing to its enterprise IM offering, while Userplane released its secure, Flash-based video instant messaging system for businesses and Web sites. eDial also entered the fray with its solution, which merges instant messaging, Web conferencing, and telephony.

Microsoft also has announced plans to more closely integrate Live Meeting and Live Communications Server — making it easier for business IM users to segue into Web conferences.

Inching Toward Interoperability

Like public security woes, interoperability among the major public IM networks is a perennial hot topic. But the possibility of authorized, cross-network communications saw its first real breakthrough only during the past several months, thanks to pioneering efforts by Reuters Group. In September, the financial information titan partnered with America Online in an agreement that would enable its users to exchange IMs with AIM users.

As the Reuters Messaging network is based on Microsoft’s Live Communications Server technology, it was no surprise that MSN soon after signed on as well for similar functionality. With additional agreements with major players in the enterprise market, IBM Lotus and Parlano, Reuters reshaped itself as a hub for cross-network communications. Those capabilities, it should be noted, will be available only to users of Reuters’ soon-to-be-released fee-based version of Reuters Messaging.

Additionally, as part of its settlement with Microsoft, AOL said the two companies would explore the possibility of interoperability. Little has yet to be seen from this announcement, however.

Meanwhile, while Reuters, AOL, IBM and Microsoft were expanding their relationships, a number of important strides were being made in other areas of IM. The supporters behind the open-source Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) endorsed gateways linking XMPP to the Open Mobile Alliance’s Wireless Village specification — a major force in mobile IM — and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) / SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), which is widely supported by players in VoIP. The group also began discussions with major players behind SIP/SIMPLE for true protocol-level interoperability.

Mobile Messaging Maturing

The past year also has been marked by efforts by the public IM giants to explore new ways of connecting PC-based IM with mobile messaging, in advance of burgeoning U.S. consumer interest in wireless text messaging and advancements in mobile device technology.

Meanwhile, the infrastructure enabling mobile messaging in North America has been improving steadily and adding new features, paving the way for increased use of the medium as a marketing tool.

Mobile carriers also are striving to leverage IM as a means to generate additional revenue. Verizon Wireless recently introduced a multi-network IM client, while Cingular struck deals with AOL and Yahoo!. Other carriers have pursued similar integration strategies.

For the moment, the convergence of wired and wireless IM has been predominantly driven by carriers’ efforts to glean additional income from subscribers. But increasing evidence shows that businesses also want wireless IM and presence-enabled technologies — making the ascendancy of mobile IM one of the probable big stories of 2004.

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Yahoo! Blocks Third-Party IM

Tech News

Yahoo! Blocks Third-Party IM

Posted By Christopher Saunders

Eventually, cooperation and well-meaning openness can cost a company. After a long time of allowing third party IM systems to integrate with its IM software, Yahoo is closing the door on third-party IM systems within its network, while at the same time, considering a Trillian-style clone.

Yahoo is mirroring a move by Microsoft to block unauthorized IM clients from using its .NET messenger network. Yahoo has announced that unauthorized clients will no longer have access after Sept. 24th.

The means for closing out the unauthorized users is a mandatory upgrade issued by the web company. Users must install the update before September 24th, or be termed out of the IM system. The company said that most users have already upgraded and that the older legacy versions were the ones being used by unauthorized users.

In an additional, and somewhat more surprising move, the company offered a survey to its online users asking if they would be willing to pay a relatively small fee for access and use of a Trillian-style IM system. The client would have access to AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, and Microsoft MSN networks, among others.

The issue that Yahoo may face with such an IM system is that Microsoft and AOL have not been particularly open to other systems accessing their proprietary chat systems. Trillian tried to gain access and was denied, and while Yahoo is a larger system, it will need approval before a viable IM system is possible.

With Yahoo issuing its own IM closing upgrade, requesting openness from Microsoft and AOL might seem a bit hypocritical. However, the ability to chat over all systems is a viable solution for many users, and Yahoo may still have just enough market clout to make it happen.

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Apple Takes a Bite Out of Video IM

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Apple Takes a Bite Out of Video IM

Posted By IMP Staff

Apple was looking to improve on their audio and video by upgrading their iChat client, that is compatible to the AOL instant messaging.

The previous day Apple had released an improved version of the IM client, which included audio and video capabilities that were above the IM networks.Those features were included in instant messaging based on ZeroConf, which was in iChat since it was initially released.The new release was available as a preview that was limited by time and was scheduled to be shipped with OSX10.3″panther.

Connections were by plugging a Firewire video camera so that signaling to others was possible through the iChat buddy list, their form of chatting.It was a requirement that for the conversation to take place, a 56k modem was needed for audio and for video a broadband connection was needed.

Steve Jobs, then the Chief Executive for Apple had pointed out that his aim was to enable other people to experience video conferencing. Also, he said that he hoped to strengthen video chatting by linking it into instant messaging.Again he said that this platform would be most useful at work, in education, and even when communicating with family and friends.

PC to PC communication had the disadvantage of having difficulties when setting up hardware and when finding a college remotely for video chatting, which apple was aiming to solve through the distribution of information about the location of the users and technical above IM protocol.

Jobs added that video conferencing would help to find out whether who the user is chatting has video or audio conferencing setup, that would work off instant messaging.

Jobs show cased the product in front of the developers at WWDC showing sessions with, Jean-Marie Hullot, former Apple, and RealNames executive; Apple Vice President of World Marketing, Phill Schiller; and the former US Vice President and Apple board member, Al Gore.

The software was only available for Mac OS X but jobs assured that they would work with other interested parties to interoperate the software.

What about SIP and AIM?

Early users of the software reported that Apple was tapping Session Initiation Protocol( SIP) as the standard of launching videos and audio. Invitation to the iChat AV required that a request is sent through AIM. Recipients iChat gets the request and the appropriate ports are opened automatically for them to receive the invite message.

Shortly the sender’s client should send a SIP invite to the IP address of the client.Provided by aim.this was participants have their IP address exchanging invisibly. Afterward, the actual video would have RTP to handle it.( Real time transport protocol).While using the SIP to do the launch, the software seemed not to function as a fully featured sip client. Aside from making the request through AIM, iChat could not initiate voice-over-IP sessions, using a basis SIP invite such as the one coming from phones.

With the adoption of SIP Apple was to embrace services through IP communication, using a protocol that was being explored, while adding the SIP-based instant messaging, courtesy of sip for Instant Messaging Leveraging Extension (SIMPLE) protocol.
The challenge was using AIM’s platform since AIM operator had refused to open its network to compatibility with SIP or another IM networks.

Voice for AIM

iChat’s AV, at any time, was likely the only way AIM users could video conference with their IM clients. This was due to the prohibition of American Online from having IM-based high-speed services via broadband by the restriction from the Federal Communications Commission(FCC) that prevented it from becoming a monopoly since they had merged with Time Warner.

Also, rivals like Yahoo and Microsoft had taken advantage of AOL’s inability to use video IM’s by adding video conferencing to their IM clients. A week earlier, Microsoft revealed its MSN Messenger 6 client’s, featuring improved features for video messaging.

Through their partnership with Logitech. Yahoo also had an integration deal signed on their WebEx web conferencing. AIM had filed a case in court to overturn FCC decision to restrict them.

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IMPlanet’s Linux IM Client Bonanza

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IMPlanet’s Linux IM Client Bonanza

Posted By Christopher Saunders

In spite of the hard-core technical and Internet-centric ethos typically associated with the Linux community, the open-source OS isn’t known for having particularly good instant messaging clients.

That could be changing, however. As Linux is steadily winning favor in the workplace, a crowd of up-and-coming third-party IM clients are growing in popularity — some of which sport features that users of other OSes ought to envy.

Here, then, is a rundown of the most popular IM clients for Linux. Most of these applications are for Gnome or KDE, and typically are supported by the most common Linux distributions.


The undisputed king of Linux instant messaging clients is gaim. While the app originally supported only AIM’s TOC protocol, it ultimately evolved into supporting OSCAR, as well as a staggering multitude of other protocols. Similar to Windows offerings like Cerulean Studios’ Trillian, gaim also supports Yahoo!, MSN Messenger and ICQ. But it doesn’t stop there: gaim also supports Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, Zephyr, and the Napster IM protocols. And like Trillian, it can handle multiple simultaneous accounts on the services.

The interface is clean and borrows the familiar icons from each service to demarcate the original networks of each contacts. Additional improvements over the networks’ clients include logging and client-side Buddy List hosting.

The open-source, GTK2-based gaim also is built with extensibility in mind. A plug-ins system provides for additional features, like a spell-checker and the ability to add chat rooms to a buddy list.

The app doesn’t support file transfer under OSCAR, but it does under TOC. Other minor quibbles: the application doesn’t support “docking,” and occasionally, cryptic error messages pop up without explanation.

Gaim is the leader in the space, but it’s not the only Linux IM client offering multiple protocols and sporting a sizable following. Formerly known as EveryBuddy, AYTTM (stands for “Are You Talking To Me?”) is another open-source, multi-protocol IM client on the move.

AYTTM supports AIM TOC, ICQ, Yahoo!, IRC, MSN, and Jabber, and is intended to be able to support any new protocols that come along. (Nevertheless, the developers concede that support for AIM’s more robust OSCAR protocol is unlikely to come anytime soon, since they simply don’t use it enough to warrant devoting significant time to it.)

Support for the protocols it does currently offer isn’t uniform, however. Group chat is supported with AIM, MSN, Yahoo! and Jabber, while file transfer is implemented fully with Yahoo! and MSN users, but AYTTM users cannot send files to AIM users.

Still, AYTTM has a lot going in its favor. Unlike most multi-protocol clients, AYTTM attempts to merge Buddies and contacts from each system into groups sharing members from each network.

AYTTM also offers a number of thoughtful improvements over the networks’ IM clients: smiley “themes,” logging, tabbed chat, automatic Babelfish translation, and spell-checking. It also supports limited integration with gnomemeeting, a videoconferencing application much like Windows NetMeeting, for GNOME.

Less popular, but steadily improving: the networks’ clients

On Windows systems, it’s often a tough sell to encourage consumers to choose a third-party client over am IM network’s own offering — since third-party clients tend to lack important, popular features found in AIM, Yahoo! Messenger or MSN Messenger. But that hasn’t been the case in the Linux realm.

Version 1.4.286 of AOL’s Linux AIM client offers a number of important enhancements over its previous iteration, adding file transfer, improved performance of pop-up messages, support for addresses (and one would assume, other private-label domains, in support of AIM’s push for enterprise customers), and an icon indicating when Buddies are wireless, and making installation easier.

Still, the improvements don’t do much more than bring Linux AIM barely up to the level of its third-party rivals. It doesn’t support direct-connect, voice messaging, IM forwarding or SMS messaging, or Buddy Icons. Also missing are the stock/news ticker, dimmed “idle” buddies and idle messages, mail integration, Search for a Buddy, and Send Buddy List support.

In short, the AIM Linux client offers IM features on par with the rest of the pack — a state of affairs that improved dramatically when file transfers were added in April. Prior to that, the application seemed unstable and severely underpowered.

Yahoo! has done far better with its own instant messaging client for Linux. Indeed, the company’s Yahoo! Messenger for Linux has, in its latest version, been made to actually resemble its more popular Windows version. It also now supports the ability to enter contact information and nicknames for Yahoo! users on other OSes.

Yahoo! Messenger for Linux also now supports the same sorts of content panels that the Windows version offers, with tabs for Finance, News, Sports, Weather, and so on. Typing notifications and overall speed and stability improvements round out the package.

Lean and mean: the specialists

If Linux AIM needs a model to pattern itself after, it might consider looking to both Yahoo! Messenger for Linux and Kinkatta, a KDE-based AIM client that’s slick-looking and sports a solid feature set.

Kinkatta’s most distinctive feature is how closely it feels to the Windows AIM client. The interface’s layout and color scheme is clearly different, but it supports almost all of the common Windows AIM formatting and messaging capabilities, barring voice chat and direct transfer.

Improving on the original AIM, Kinkatta offers Buddy Pounce, IM logging, chat room support, printing from the chat window, and customization of the toolbar and the chat window’s colors.

Another IM client with heavy extensibility is TiK, the successor to America Online’s short-lived Tck/Tk 8.0 client released in 1999. As such, TiK only supports the AIM TOC protocol. But a bevy of add-ons provide support for IM logging, remote PC administration and “Buddy Pounce” — queuing an IM for delivery as soon as a Buddy becomes available. Tik also enables users to reconfigure their interface’s colors and window sizes, offering a level of customizability some degrees shy of true skinning, but far ahead of rivals.

Yet while it sports a multitude of features, TiK lacks some of the features found on Windows AIM. For instance, there’s no support for Buddy icons.

In addition to TiK, there are a number of other popular TCL/Tk-based clients. Notable among the rest is Alvaro’s Messenger — a modified, multi-language version of the now defunct Compu’s MSN Messenger. With the exception of images of Tux, the Linux penguin, scattered throughout, Alvaro’s Messenger, or aMSN, as it’s known, presents an interface nearly identical to MSN Messenger (prior to version 5) — aping icons, font styles and graphics. It even supports animated pop-up windows, indicating when other users sign on or log off, in the style of MSN Messenger.

aMSN also supports a number of high-level MSN Messenger features, like mailbox integration and nickname changes, and improves on the original formula with logging and docking. More than 30 languages also are supported.

Tkabber is a TCL/Tk-based Jabber client, supporting a number of cutting-edge Jabber technologies.

The app offers spell-checking, encryption, emoticons, file-transfers, vCards, some customizability in interface, multi-language support, Jabber Browsing, and Jabber avatars. Non-tech-savvy users be warned, however: binaries currently are only available for Debian distributions.

LICQ is probably the most popular pure ICQ client available for Linux. In addition to the standard ICQ features — including SMS integration — LICQ offers Buddy List organization, network monitoring window, themes and a customizable UI, remote access to a locally running ICQ session, per-user customized auto-responses, SSL client-to-client connections, and a plug-in system for added extensibility. Limited support is available for e-mail integration.

The major Linux IM clients have several benefits that their Windows brethren lack. For one thing, since the Linux user base is fairly small and trending toward the technical rather than mainstream consumer, IM clients making unauthorized use of proprietary protocols (like OSCAR) or user interface elements (as with aMSN) are more likely to escape the wrath of the IM networks. Indeed, crackdowns by the public networks are far rarer in the non-Windows worlds.

And just as important, Linux IM clients are typically open-source — and supported by a rabid fan base. As a result, the clients are developing rapidly, despite having little in the way of full-time programming staffs, and fixes and updates are frequent. For instance, look for another version of AYTTM due out at the end of the month.

So, as advocates for Linux push for a greater role for the OS in the back office and on the desktop, it might be prudent to keep an eye on these emerging stars — they might be the IM clients we’re using tomorrow.

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AOL Asks FCC to OK Video IM

Tech News

AOL Asks FCC to OK Video IM

Posted By Christopher Saunders

America Online has asked the Federal Communications Commission to drop a two-year-old restriction on the media conglomerate’s development of broadband-based video instant messaging and other advanced services.

While signing off on the America Online-Time Warner merger in 2001, the FCC had decided that the combined company could hurt competition by using its vast market share in the proprietary IM space to catapult itself to a monopolistic position in advanced, high-speed, IM-based services — such as videoconferencing.

But on Wednesday, America Online submitted a petition to the FCC asking that it be excused from the restriction on the basis of “materially changed circumstances” since the commission’s January 2001 ruling.

At that time, the FCC had said that AOL would be allowed to offer such services only if the company either opened its systems to standards-based server-to-server interoperability with other networks, or was able to prove that there had been a change in circumstances — in other words, that it no longer had a dominant market share in IM.

If the FCC decides to remove the condition, it would free AOL to deploy streaming video services to broadband users. The company’s rivals in the public IM network space, Microsoft and Yahoo!, have since begun offering person-to-person streaming video built into their instant messaging clients. Yahoo! launched its built-in video support in 2001; MSN followed suit last month, although it has supported launching Windows NetMeeting from the client.

To meet the FCC’s criteria for dropping the restriction, AOL must show that its AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ networks no longer represent a “dominant” force in the free, public IM space.

“Dominance,” in most cases, is considered being able to profitably set prices above the levels dictated by competition, or to hurt or wipe out competition by selling product at unnaturally low prices. Since AOL and its rivals don’t charge for their IM clients, though, the concept of dominance applies more here to market share.

According to the FCC’s original ruling, if AOL shows market share data to back up its claim that it no longer has the potential of building a monopoly in advanced IM services on the back of its free service, the company would be required to demonstrate that it has not been a “dominant” provider of presence-based services for at least four consecutive months.

“There is clear and convincing evidence that the assumptions and predictions made at the time the Condition was imposed … have proven to be incorrect,” wrote Steven Teplitz, vice president and associate general counsel at AOL, in the company’s application. “Even assuming … that the Condition was justified at the time it was imposed, it is ‘no longer necessary in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.'”

“Since 1999, when AOL served 100 percent of IM users, AOL confronted two major new IM entrants, Yahoo! and Microsoft, as well as numerous smaller entrants,” the application continues, citing figures from industry researcher Media Metrix, now part of comScore Networks. “As a result, AOL has experienced a substantial decline in its IM share. Its share of unduplicated, all-location users has fallen from 100 percent to 58.5 percent in just three and one-half years.”

AOL’s application, public comments on which are being received until early May, has been more or less expected. In addition to being the only large IM player without video support, the company also has been under pressure for some time to develop new services that piggyback on its existing offerings and increase revenue — like many players in online media. In recent months, AOL has rolled out a number of add-on services for members of its flagship service, like integrated voicemail.

But its major competitors and a host of startups have been busily developing advanced products that hinge on presence or IM, which had been forbidden to AOL under the FCC’s conditions. Microsoft, for instance, is expected later this year to deliver its “Greenwich” Real-Time Collaboration platform — which would support IM and video-conferencing, among other modes of communication. AOL makes note of this fact in its application for the video IM restrictions to be lifted, and supporters claim that its existence now actually hurts competition.

“This artificial restraint on AOL’s provision of streaming video [IM services] harms the public interest by negatively affecting investment and innovation,” Teplitz wrote. “Continued application of the [c]ondition serves only to deprive consumers of the benefits of competition — namely, increased innovation and choice.”

In an affidavit in support of AOL’s claim, Northwestern University Prof. William Rogerson — a former chief economist for the FCC — wrote that he believes “there is now clear and convincing evidence that there are three strong and stable competitors in the market for instant messaging. As a result, there is no longer any plausible reason to conclude either that AOL is dominant in text-based IM services or that this market has ‘tipped’ or is in danger of ‘tipping’ to AOL.”

“Furthermore, a variety of other developments, such as the fact that Microsoft and Yahoo! have already launched streaming video AIHS services independent of AOL, also support the conclusion that competition is strong and vibrant in this market,” Rogerson wrote.

In March, when MSN announced that it would officially support Webcams provided by Logitech for streaming video built into the MSN Messenger client, AOL said that it was looking into the potential for similar features.

America Online also gave signs months ago that it had ceased to seriously consider developing server-to-server interoperability. After reporting that a pilot effort to link AIM to IBM Lotus Sametime had proven too costly and inefficient to be practical, the company said it would focus instead on as an IM provider for non-competitive companies — such as the case with Apple Computer’s iChat.

In any event, the conditions are more suitable than ever for the restriction to be overturned. For one thing, the current FCC has a Republican majority; at the time of its passing in early January 2001, the group’s three Democrat and two Republican commissioners split on issues surrounding AOL instant messaging along party lines. FCC Chairman Michael Powell, a Republican, and a commissioner at the time, dissented from the IM stipulation.

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Mobile Spam Banned in Calif.

Tech News

Mobile Spam Banned in Calif.

Posted By Bob Woods

A new state law in California intends to stop the spread of spam, or unsolicited commercial messages, from the e-mail box to the mobile realm, before it gets to be a problem. But as of now, enforcement of the law will end up on the shoulders of mobile users.

California Governor Gray Davis (D) on Thursday signed legislation that prohibits unwanted and unsolicited text advertisements messages to owners of wireless phones, pagers and personal-digital assistants (PDAs) equipped to receive messages. “Wireless communication is an emerging technology,” Davis said in a statement. “We are acting now to prevent spam text messaging from spinning out of control like spam e-mail has.”

The bill does not provide for any direct fines or penalties against companies that spam mobile users, according to a spokesperson from the office of Assemblymember Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City), who sponsored the bill. Instead, those people who receive mobile spam will be able to sue the sender to recoup the money spent to receive each unwanted message under an existing state unfair business practices law.

Unlike wireline e-mail users who usually pay a flat rate for all Internet services, people who elect to receive and send messages on various wireless devices almost always pay extra fees for the service.

Wireless industry spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.

Davis also addressed junk faxes and telemarketers in two other privacy-related technology bills that he signed on Thursday (related story). One allows the state to enforce a federal law that bans unwanted ads that make their way into offices and homes via fax machines. Davis has already signed legislation that required junk faxers to provide a toll free number for consumers to call if they wanted to opt-out of receiving junk faxes. AB 2944 strengthens the law protecting Californians from junk faxers.

“There are few things more irritating than a fax machine that won’t stop ringing,” Davis said. “It’s especially frustrating when those faxes are unsolicited advertisements. This bill will restore some peace of mind to those of us who are bombarded by paper.”

The other bill strengthens a “do-not-call” law already in effect that lets consumers place their names on a special list to avoid unwanted telemarketing. The latest bill clarifies the law to allow small businesses to pay reduced rates for the “Do Not Call” list and ensures that the Attorney General will be able to implement the program on time.

“These days, telemarketers and advertisers are intruding on everything — our home phones, our cell phone, our fax machines and our pagers,” Davis added. “Today, California cuts the line on unsolicited faxes, phone calls and text messages.”

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.

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