IM’s Future

ACM Queue has an interview with Microsoft’s Peter Ford:

In addition to the PC IM systems and suppliers, you have the wireless carriers and their suppliers in the overall ecosystem for communications and IM… I think the reason why the systems that we have for IM today are different from what you currently see in wireless systems and proposals is that the endpoint, or the power of the endpointthe PC that people are sitting in front ofis so high and the functionality you get out of PC-based IM systems today includes new capabilities such as presence awareness across the network with your peers…This is different from what you get in the mobile-phone space today, where the working concept is “always on,” and you’re always reachable. In the milieu of PC-based IM today you actually have a fairly rich presence system where you can indicate “I’m out to lunch,” or “I’m away for 15 minutes, I’ll be right back.” So I think that one major difference is that you have much richer notification to your peers, your buddies, your contacts.

Over time users will demand [inter-connectivity], so you can imagine it working out in different ways. One way would be that a new standard emerges and everyone just moves to it. Or it could be, one of the existing standardsXMPP/Jabber versus SIPbasically becomes the winner. There may be interim solutions: I’d be shocked if vendors did not build, just as they did with e-mail gateways, ways to interoperate between those two communities.

The IM world is probably in a little bit better shape than the e-mail world. The reason I say that is, in most of the IM systems you actually have some notion of who the user is, who’s logged in, unlike e-mail systems, which were really designed for broad open communication and didn’t worry too much about user authentication up front. The e-mail world is busily grappling with that as a result of spam. But once you have authentication in the system, it usually is easier to get to some kind of private communication channel or end-to-end package, based on that authentication.

I actually think things like whitelisting, which is ubiquitous in IM, will actually become far more common in the e-mail world.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.