Building notes, projects, and occasional rants

Yahoo changes IM protocol

Yahoo changed their IM protocol once again. The official reason is to prevent IM spam (or spim). I felt this in the flesh yesterday, when my client Proteus refused to connect to Yahoo network, but I didn’t have a clear opinion about this. Parts of Jeremy post helped me put it all in perspective.

First, I never got IM spam over Yahoo or any other network, so my perspective over this could be somewhat biased.

IM spam is nothing like mail spam. IM solutions have from the start the concept of establishing a trust relationship between two users. All the clients I know have a checkbox (the good ones make it the default) that only allows people in your buddy list to send you messages. So the spam issue, at least for me, is a non-issue.

The other issue people are talking about is that “It’s Yahoo network, it’s Yahoo protocol, and it’s Yahoo resources, so they can do with them whatever they want”. Well, yes it’s true. But thats a shallow analysis of the problem.

Think about why trillian and others have to, or want to reverse engineer the Yahoo protocol. I came up with two reasons:

  1. there is a user demand of a multi-network application: my friends are in multiple networks, and I want to talk to them without having to run multiple clients;
  2. Yahoo does not have a open-protocol gateway to the outside.
The first one is interesting to me: the current official clients for the major networks are not good enough, they have limitations, because they cannot connect to multiple networks. So the market has this need, and the major networks choose not to compete, but to stifle competition by starting a arms race that they have little chance of winning, while pissing of their own or potencial customers. Smart, eh?

The second is more subtle. Given that the spam issue in IM networks is moot, I don’t see a reason for Yahoo and the other networks not having a open transport gateway. Jabber or SIMPLE, for instance.

In my view, if they had one, they would be giving more power to their own users, and give them a reason to stay with Yahoo network, and use their own client. It would become the race for the best client, and frankly, I don’t see what Yahoo and the others fear in that race: they have the resources and the content integration to provide the best IM client out there, hands down.

Imagine this: Yahoo and the others open up a Jabber gateway, and launch a new client to match. “Talk to anybody in the world, and you can still get personalized news feeds, your calendar, your mail notifications, in a single app”.

I’m a believer in real-time always-on internet. I don’t need super-amounts of bandwidth, but I need it there, all the time. I would love to see a application that would be the center of my internet presence, gathering all my friends, all the events of my online life: mail notifications, IM messages, calendar notifications, new post in my favorite feeds. I see it as: a social network-based app (maybe Google will open Orkut via an API…), with touches of dashboard for cross-linking of information. Add mobile connectivity (GPRS or better), a PDA or smart-phone, and your done!

We can only hope…