Yahoo! has launched Yahoo! Messenger for Mac 3.0 Beta 1 – the next generation version of its IM client for the Mac. It has a new interface and support for Growl, as well as webcam support (for both iSight and USB cameras). A future release will also add voice chat and connectivity with Windows Live Messenger users. Microsoft are also reciprocating by allowing users of Windows Live Messenger to talk to Yahoo! Messenger users, again in a future release.
This is good news. Chat clients for OS X are, for the most part, well-behind their Windows counterparts in terms of features. iChat AV does allow voice and video chat over AIM, but Yahoo and Microsoft’s official offerings have only allowed text chat until now. The unofficial clients do not fair much better either – Adium X should have working voice support for Jabber/Google Talk by the end of the year but not for the main networks. The fact that Yahoo! will have a strong OS X client with multimedia support is good – and if it works fully with MSN users then all the better. Microsoft’s Mac client – Microsoft Messenger – is mostly aimed at corporate users, with support for Exchange messaging; Yahoo!’s client is more consumer-friendly and I imagine that in future Microsoft may push Mac users towards it instead.
I called this post ‘IM Interoperability’ because we’re finally moving closer to having unified messaging networks. Right now, we have 5 main distinct networks: AIM/ICQ, MSN, Yahoo!, Skype and Jabber/Google Talk. There are others but we’ll focus on these as they’re the most used. Yahoo! and MSN look to be merging, so that brings us down to 4, and apparently AIM and Google Talk will do too, so that should create 3. But that means we still have 3 separate networks, with different users and different programs needed to access them (or a combined program that doesn’t make use of all of a network’s features).
We never had this problem with email, and for the most part we don’t with web sites – in general, no matter what ISP you have and what email client you use, your email will get to its recipient. And generally you can use any web browser to access any web site, save for a few. We don’t have this with instant messaging, despite the technology having been around since 1998.
While the linking of networks is always a good thing, it won’t be perfect until IM is like email. When I can open up Yahoo! Messenger on my Mac, and have a video conference with someone in Canada who’s using Skype on Windows, then I’ll be happy. Unfortunately, I imagine this is, at best, a long way off – if it ever happens at all.