Computer Industry Representatives Call on AOL to Join in Advancing Instant Messaging Open Standard

SEATTLE, July 29, 1999 — Representatives of Activerse Inc., AT & T Corp., Excite@Home Inc., Infoseek Corp., Microsoft Corp., Prodigy Communications Corp., Tribal Voice Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. today called on America Online Inc. to join the rest of the industry in advancing an open standard for instant messaging technology in the following letter to AOL President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Case.

July 29, 1999

Mr. Steve Case
President & CEO
America Online Inc.
22000 AOL Way
Dulles VA 20166-9328

Dear Steve,

We are sure you are aware of the issue regarding interoperability between the instant messaging services of AOL and other vendors and of AOL’s efforts to block instant messaging clients from other companies. These actions have led to an unproductive game of cat and mouse as we respond to your blockages to turn interoperability back on for users and you block us again.

Steve, AOL is to be applauded for its early leadership in this space and for the foresight to purchase ICQ. The consequence of these efforts is your strong position in the marketplace. But now is the time to unlock the broadest possibilities of this technology and the Internet by tearing down the walls between vendors so that all customers can talk to one another. Certainly this is in our interests but it is also in the interests of our mutual customers. Surely, we can all agree that it’s important for people from all walks of life to be able to communicate with one another in an unfettered and open fashion. Indeed, imagine a world in which users of one particular telephone service were unable to interconnect with users of another service. Similarly, imagine if AOL members could only email other AOL members. Such a world is not in the best interests of customers.

Consequently, in the spirit of doing what is right for consumers and our industry, we’d like to convene a meeting of our respective companies to begin the far more productive process of creating an industry standard.

Together, representatives of each of the companies’ that have signed this letter intend to advance the IETF’s Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol effort as quickly as possible. As you know, The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. It is open to any interested individual and has taken leadership on many similar issues. Details on the Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol effort can be found on the IETF website.

We would like to ask you to join us in this effort and put your full support behind the creation of an industry standard as soon as possible. In the meantime, in the spirit of cooperation, and to provide users with an interim solution, we ask that you suspend blocking users of non-AOL clients from AIM and provide a means for these clients to talk to ICQ as well. We believe that this is the most practical and fair process for developing a standard that will allow millions of instant messaging users the ability to communicate seamlessly with each other while at the same time providing some needed solutions to customers today.

We would appreciate your commitment now to join us in this important effort. We will of course work with your staff to ensure that we schedule this process in a way that facilitates AOL’s participation. We would appreciate hearing from you by the end of next week.


Joe Kraus, Senior Vice President, Content
Excite@Home Inc.

Brad Chase, Vice President, Consumer & Commerce Group
Microsoft Corp.

Jim Dutton, CEO
Activerse Inc.

Joseph Esposito, President & CEO
Tribal Voice, Inc.

Bill Kirkner, Chief Technology Officer
Prodigy Communications Corporation

Jeff Mallett, President & Chief Operating Officer
Yahoo! Inc.

David Nagel, Chief Technology Officer
AT & T

Patrick Naughton, Executive Vice President of Products

Cc: Vijay Saraswat, Internet Engineering Task Force

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