Microsoft will publish the protocol for its MSN Messenger service as part of its strategy to push open communications on the Internet, no matter what messaging tool consumers are using.
The move is another blow to AOL, which has tried to prevent users of Microsoft's messaging service from accessing users on its own Instant Messenger service.
"Since 1997, Microsoft has actively worked with the industry on open standards for interoperability among messaging systems, and documenting our protocol is a significant step in this direction,” said Brad Chase, senior vice president, consumer and commerce group for Microsoft.
A protocol is set of rules describing how to transmit data across a network.
The publishing of the MSN Messenger protocol will make it easier for other instant messaging services to communicate with MSN Messenger, whilst providing an interim until an industry standard can be developed and ratified, Microsoft said.
Microsoft's decision to publish the protocol was welcomed by the Internet Engineering Task Force.
"The publication of different protocols helps us in evaluating our requirements document and in informing our development of robust, open protocols for Internet-wide interoperability in this area," said Vijay Saraswat, co-chair of a working group of the IETF.
"In this spirit of open protocols that benefit the entire Internet community, we strongly encourage other vendors to publish their protocols."
Microsoft’s move has also been supported by the industry. "Open standards for instant messaging and online presence will benefit consumers and business alike," explained Joseph Esposito, president and chief executive of Tribal Voice.
"Consumers will have freedom to communicate, and businesses will be able to develop a new generation of products and services built on a common communications standard."
Microsoft will make the MSN Messenger protocol available to the industry by the end of this month by submitting it as an Internet draft to the IETF as a working reference implementation of an interoperable instant messaging protocol. Developers will also be able to use the reference implementation to provide interoperability.
Microsoft has more than 1.3 million consumers in the US currently using its MSN Messenger Service, making it one of the fastest growing instant messaging services.
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