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Google and SIPphone Lead The Way To Saner World

In the early days of the PC revolution you needed 4 or 5 email addresses to be able to reach everyone. Since none of the systems communicated with each other, you would need separate addresses to communicate with people using different systems. For example, you needed a CompuServe address to exchange email with people on Compuserve, a Prodigy address to exchange email with those users, an AOL address... well you get the point. Business cards were crammed with 5 or more email addresses. Eventually, each system connected to the Internet system and ISPs agreed to forwarded email to other systems and receive email from other systems. Today, your business card just needs one email address, that anyone in the world regardless of country, ISP or software program they may be using, can use to contact you.

Gizmo and Google
The instant messaging and voice worlds are still in the dark ages compared to email. To message everyone, you have to create accounts on every system, which gives you an unwieldy list of accounts and passwords to keep track of. And you need to install AOL Messenger, MSN, Yahoo!, and others to be able to reach the entire world. Many of these programs commandeer your computer by changing your homepage, adding tool bars, installing unrelated software, bombarding you with advertising and grinding your computer to a halt. Blech!

You shouldn't have to juggle multiple accounts and a massive library of software just to send instant messages or do voice calls to other people. These companies should agree to forward and receive IM or voice calls to other networks - just as they do with messages in the free email services they offer.

SIPphone is not the first to call for cooperation and open directories between IM and voice providers. When Microsoft and Yahoo! launched their own instant messaging systems, they called on then-leader AOL to open their AIM network. At the time AOL bemoaned technical complexities and security concerns although they seemed to have no problems connecting the ICQ system they purchased with AIM. But as Microsoft and AOL grew their own user bases their public position regarding open directories quietly changed and now they are no different than AOL, refusing to connect with anyone else.

Which leads us to the launch of Google Talk and Gizmo Project networks, which are now fully connected. When users start up their Gizmo Project software they are informed of a new version which they can upgrade to with a single click. The new version of Gizmo Project lets users contact Google Talk as easily as another Gizmo Project user. It's full IM integration so they can of course exchange text messages, but also nicely handle address book invitations and display presence information (whether someone is available, away, etc). We are testing voice in our labs and hope to add that capability shortly.

A skeptic might say that Gizmo Project and Google Talk are agreeing to cooperate to try and catch the big three (MSN, AOL, and Yahoo!), which of course we would like to do. But this is more than just a corporate strategy. My personal belief is the world needs open directories for instant messaging and voice just as we did with email. I'd believe that if Gizmo Project was the largest or smallest network. It's the only rationale way for the world to work because it's easiest for consumers and lets them choose the service that best suits their need rather than getting locked into a proprietary system. This is why we launched IM Federation which is encouraging the world to work together. We're excited to see Google act on their public commitment to open their directory.

I expect other larger networks to join Google Talk and Gizmo Project in the coming months. I hope this momentum will put pressure on AOL, Skype, MSN, and Yahoo! to play nicely with others. These companies should compete by offering the best software and service not by locking consumers inside their network and competitors out.

-- Michael 
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