Baby Bell’s Nightmare: Google

According to Google:

Google believes that users should have a choice in what applications they use for communication. Built to support industry standards, Google Talk enables Google users to connect to the Google Talk service and exchange IMs using any client that does the same, including Trillian, Adium, iChat, GAIM, and Psi.

The company is also committed to working with other service providers to create a federation model that enables users on any member network to talk to users on any other member network in a secure and abuse-free manner. Google is currently working with EarthLink to federate with their Vling communications service and with Sipphone on federating their Gizmo Project.

A very interesting statement. First we know it’s based on Jabber, a popular open source IM product. It’s open, many products support it. What’s more interesting is the Business side of things:

Could Google be the one to unite the currently fragmented Instant Messaging market? It seems entirely possible. Google is the only company who sees that as a good idea, and currently the only company who has suggested it, and has enough market power to possibly push for that to happen. If Google could get 2 out of the big 3 (AOL, MSN, Yahoo) to sign on and unify: the other would be forced to participate or face a declining market. Personally I think not only AOL would be the biggest win, but the most likely to participate (mainly because of ICQ).

I’m still surprised Google didn’t buy Skype, I still wouldn’t be surprised to hear it happen any day. Not for their IM, but for their amazing voice chat capability. The quality and compatibility has yet to be beat (I haven’t had a chance to try Google Talk, but from what I hear it’s on the level of SIP). Skype is cross platform and has a rather well designed client. A perfect item for Google’s arsenal. If I were Google, I’d buy it. Skype is to IM what Keyhole is to Mapping (Google bought Keyhole a little less than a year ago and renamed it Google Earth, as well as integrated it with their mapping service).

On it’s own, I don’t see much value to Google Talk. Jabber is cool, but why another client? I have GAIM anyway, so no extra client for me, but I still wonder what the selling point for Google Talk is right now. Unless this is just a taste of what’s to come. Personally, I think this is just the start of what we will be seeing from this. I expect integration with existing services, and new services to be based on it. This is just an extension to the Google Platform.

Best for Consumers?

The thing I hope for is Google buying Skype and freeing up their paid services, and making it ad supported. Skype voice mail, perhaps even SkypeOut (at a much lower rate). There is so much potential for Google in the VoIP arena it’s amazing. It even makes a Tellme a potential target for acquisition. Integrate that with VoIP, instant messaging, and Google’s capacity (bandwidth, and servers), and you have a massive communications platform that rivals any communications company.

David Tenser has the issue of multiple VoIP/SIP clients (same as we had with IM). Google peering with other VoIP providers, and unifying by perhaps acquiring Skype and opening things up a bit would greatly resolve this. If all of Skype’s users could co-exist with other VoIP solutions VoIP would stand a chance. Right now, the market has potential but no real chance of taking off mainly because of this issue. Not many will settle for a phone that can only call certain people. Nobody would buy a cell phone if you can only call people with the same plan. Why? Because that’s stupid.

Making money? Oh there are plenty of ways. VoIP opens the doors to many things. Take a look at 1-800-555-TELL (TellMe’s free demo). Imagine Google Adwords integrated into that. Could be done very tastefully. Next look at Google’s SMS effort. Think how well voice services and Cell phones go together (check your gmail on the phone, get directions via phone, etc.). Google could essentially take the phone companies by surprise virtually over night.

Who will Google buy next?

I suggest the following:

  • Skype
  • Tellme
  • perhaps one or two more other VoIP providers.

OK, I’m done talking about Google… for now.

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