Leading Industry Vendors Join Microsoft In Announcing Support For Creation of Open “Buddy List” Protocol Standard

REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 24, 1997 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that more than 40 leading industry vendors have announced support to create the first open protocol to standardize how applications such as “buddy lists” identify the presence of friends and business associates online. This protocol is intended to make it easier for users to locate, connect to and communicate with each other anywhere on the Internet.

To initiate this process, Microsoft has submitted a proposed specification called the “rendezvous protocol” (RVP) to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The RVP specification uses an open, distributed model that enables the creation of interoperable client and server solutions, allowing for compatibility across products, platforms and vendors. Microsoft has submitted the specification to the IETF, which is the principal body engaged in the development of new Internet standard specifications, with the goal of creating an open Internet standard for identifying online presence.

“International and industry standards organizations have established interoperable protocols for mail, chat and many other forms of conferencing on the Internet,” said John Ludwig, vice president of the Internet client and collaboration division at Microsoft. “However, ways of finding friends, family and colleagues to communicate with online are still in the dark ages of proprietary networks. It’s our goal to evolve the Internet into a real-time multimedia communications network, and this requires unrelenting industry commitment to interoperability standards. The RVP submission, along with broad industry involvement, is a key step toward achieving that goal.”

More Than 40 Vendors Rally Behind Goal of Creating Standards-Based Protocol

More than 40 leading industry vendors representing Internet telephony, videoconferencing, networking hardware, Internet service, community service, and content providers have announced their support for the creation of a standards-based distributed “buddy list” or “presence” protocol. These proponents include 3Com Corp., 8×8 Inc., Activerse Inc., Bandai Digital Entertainment Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Concentric Network Corp., Connectix Corp., DataBeam Corp., Data Connection Ltd., Dialogic Corp., DSP Group Inc., eFusion Inc., elemedia of Lucent Technologies Inc., eShare Technologies Inc., Extranet Solutions, LLC, Flash Communications, GeoCities, GTE Internetworking, Guthy-Renker Internet, Ibis Research Corp., ichat Inc., Infoseek Corp., InfoSpace Inc., ITXC, Juno Online Services LP, Liveworld Productions, Netopia Inc., OnLive! Technologies Inc., OutReach Technologies, The Palace Inc., PeopleLink Inc., PictureTel Corp., PlanetAll, Polycom, Prodigy Internet, RADVision Inc., Ring Zero Systems, Sony Pictures Entertainment, VDOnet Inc., VideoServer Inc., Vocaltec Communications Ltd., Voxware Inc., VTEL Corp., White Pine Software, Winnov Inc., Xirlink Inc. and Zydacron Inc.

Through the open-standards process, these vendors and others will have an opportunity to work together to review, discuss and provide feedback and to drive consensus on the formation of the standard.

“Knowing who is present online provides users with even more information than standard communication tools such as the telephone,” said Steve Glenn, president and CEO of
PeopleLink. “Imagine how powerful it would be if you could find out if someone was there before trying to call them, or learn that a family member across the country just logged on and be able to immediately say ‘hi’ and strike up a conversation. A standard presence protocol will bring these rich, real-time, people-focused communication capabilities to every user on the Internet.”

“We’ve established Prodigy Internet with the philosophy of offering the latest and greatest Internet technology to our subscribers and bringing it together as an easy-to-use solution to fit into their everyday lives,” said Russ Pillar, CEO, Prodigy Internet. “A standards-based solution for helping friends and family to find each other on the Internet will greatly enhance the ability for our customers to communicate in real time.”

RVP Solves Problems Posed by Proprietary Buddy List Solutions

Applications, such as buddy lists, that identify online presence are an increasingly important tool for real-time Internet communications. These applications are used for initiating a variety of online communications, including sending instant text messages, files and pictures; conducting audio and video conferences; and issuing invitations to chat rooms and game-playing sessions.

Currently, the demand for solutions that identify online presence is fractured because existing solutions are proprietary. Interoperability across products, platforms and vendors is not possible, preventing users of different buddy list services from easily finding, connecting to and communicating with each other. This limitation creates walled-off, isolated communities that require customers to use the same client software and service provider. The situation is like having a telephone that only makes calls to customers of your local phone company.

Microsoft’s RVP specification addresses this issue by introducing an open model that enables servers operated by different corporations and Internet service providers to exchange information, in much the same way that different e-mail systems exchange messages today. Using this model, for example, a computer user in France could see when a business associate or friend in Japan logs on to the Internet and becomes available for instant communication, regardless of whether they both are using the same Internet service provider.

Microsoft proposed the RVP specification to the IETF on Friday, Nov. 21. In proposing the protocol, Microsoft is encouraging the industry to converge around a single presence standard that will ultimately result from the feedback and experience of industry leaders. The open standards process in the IETF and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has led to the development of other Internet and telecommunication protocols and standards such as POP3 and SMTP for electronic mail, HTTP for text linking, IRC for chat and H.323 for audio and video conferencing.

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