Industries thrive when there is just one standard to adopt. E-mail has become much more pervasive because of the SMTP protocol; the video industry grew quickly because VHS won out over beta; IBM dominated the PC industry in the 1980s because only 20% or so of its architecture was proprietary; Warner's and Wal-Mart's decision to go exclusively with Blu-Ray effectively killed HD DVD, paving the way for more rapid growth of the high-def video format.
While instant messaging is popular and pervasive in the corporate world, its growth has not been as robust as many expected it to be even just a few years ago. In my opinion, this is due far less to the utility of instant messaging and much more to the fact that there has never been a single, dominant standard that would make competing instant messaging compatible. While there are tools like Trillian for Windows, AdiumX for the Mac, Meebo on the Web and various federated systems that allow users of competing systems to talk with one another, standards-based communications is almost always a more effective solution to growing an industry.
The two major standards in the world of real-time communications are Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). While there have been debates over the merits of both protocols, one of them emerging as the clear winner would very likely accelerate the instant messaging industry. Among vendors that support XMPP are Google, Jabber and Apple. Vendors supporting SIP include Microsoft, IBM, Avaya, Cisco and Nortel. Lots of other vendors support either or both standards. Yahoo seems to be leaning toward XMPP.
Clearly, eliminating one standard (which I am not advocating) would help to grow the instant messaging and real-time communications industry substantially.
I’d like to get your thoughts on this, both from the standpoint of which standard you hope prevails, as well as on the utility of instant messaging for your organization. Please send me an e-mail with your thoughts.