It’s time for an international standard on Instant Messaging

Well, actually it’s well past time. Instant Messaging has all the earmarks to be the communications of the future, and it royally stinks.

Problems today:

  • Networks don’t communicate together, hence locking users in (MSN, AIM, Yahoo!)
  • Phones don’t Text Message (same as IM essentially) across networks. Barely from net to phone.
  • Each has proprietary ‘extras’ (file transfer method, voice chat, web cam, pictures, etc). Far from standardized.

I think it’s time for the IETF to write up an official recommendation for Instant Messaging.

Here’s my wish list:

  • UTF8 encoding for all messages
  • XML messages. Adds capabilities to easily integrate with other systems (since XML is the way of the future). Stylesheets define how it appears.
  • MathML support – for those wanting to get geeky.
  • SVG Graphics – why not? Slim, clean, XML. This could be used for multiple things: Emoticons :-) for example could be sent via SVG. Things like whiteboard (which allow you to draw and have the other party see what you draw) could be done in SVG.
  • Of course, an open standard, like Email. Cross platform, many clients, no licensing restrictions. So everyone can enjoy it.

With this, there’s a lot of flexibility. Using XML as a message format, rather than HTML, allows for a stylesheet to render it pretty. A person with a vision impairment could have a product read the XML directly. You could honor a stylesheet provided by the person you are talking too, download them online, or create your own. Big text? Small text? Color contrast? All in your control. And with SVG emoticons, they can resize appropriately without losing quality. Phones can resize as necessary thanks to custom stylesheets.

It’s a real shame it hasn’t happened yet. There’s no great IM clients. The protocols all have their limitations (AOL stinks behind firewalls, Yahoo’s got minimal users, MSN is spam ridden). All the current systems stink. Their clients are even worse. AOL’s adware, MSN’s buggy client (and terrible Mac client), Yahoo’s terribly slow development.

Look at all the IRC clients available. So many, each with their own features, toys, ehancements. All working together.

Yes, I do hate IM’s as of today. But imagine what could be done? It could be as universal as email. Secure, fast, flexible framework. But instead, we’ve got garbage to date.

The time for standards in IM is now. It’s only going to get more proprietary from here on out. And lock users into their networks.

Oh… spam prevention built into the protocol would be nice. Lets avoid another Email like spam attack.

Just my $0.02

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