Updated from 1:42 p.m. EDT
once again proved it's easy to meld different instant messaging systems. All you have to do is pay for it.
The financial information provider said Tuesday it had reached an agreement that will enable users of its Reuters Messaging IM service to exchange messages with users of
MSN Messenger service. The announcement of the agreement -- which was actually reached this summer -- comes three weeks after
Reuters announced a similar deal to connect Reuters Messaging users to IM services operated by
AOL Time Warner's
Reuters claims 50,000 users in financial services industries for its free instant messaging service, while comScore Media Metrix estimates AOL's different IM services had 50.6 million different users in the U.S. in July, and MSN Messenger had 18.3 million U.S. users.
For the privilege of interconnecting its customers with Microsoft's IM users, Reuters will be paying Microsoft, according to a Microsoft spokesman. A Reuters spokesman said the agreement between the two companies was similar to agreements between different telcos to cover costs for network traffic, but declined to be more specific. It is understood that Reuters will also be paying AOL for interconnection with its AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ services, but Reuters has declined to comment on that agreement.
Subsequent to this story's publication, the Microsoft spokesman said he had been misinformed, and Reuters' portrayal of the two companies' agreement was "correct and accurate."
Thus, it appears that users of different instant messaging services are freely able to trade messages back and forth -- as long as someone is willing to pay for the interconnection. It also appears that the operators of the largest instant messaging services are finding a way to make money from IM, which despite its extremely popular among millions of Internet users, has yet to become a significant revenue source.
Back in 2000, as America Online and Time Warner sought to gain approval for their merger, instant messaging interoperability emerged as a hot-button issue pressed by various critics of the deal. The passionate pleas for AOL to open up its network to other IM networks have died down since then.
Reuters Messaging's interoperability with the larger services is scheduled to be included in an upgraded, for-pay version rolling out in the first quarter of 2004. Reuters says it will continue to offer its current noninteroperable instant messaging software for free.