Yahoo and MSN Messengers Get Chatty

Online titans Yahoo and Microsoft are (finally) beginning to make good on a promise they made way back in October 2005: as of today, the two companies are conducting a limited public beta test of interoperatbility between users of their instant messaging services. Together, the two services would form the world’s largest instant messaging community, with nearly 350 million user accounts.

The beta test requires users sign up with either Yahoo or Microsoft and run either Windows Live Messenger or Yahoo Messenger with Voice. The beta test is available (with some limitations) to users in a variety of countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, Korea, India, Italy, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Users will be able to chat each other up, see their friends’ online presence and status messages across the instant messaging services, view offline messages, share emoticons, and add new contacts from either service, all at no cost.

“This first-of-its-kind interoperability between consumer IM leaders Microsoft and Yahoo gives our customers tremendous control, convenience and freedom in their Web communication experiences with Windows Live,” said Microsoft’s Blake Irving, corporate vice president of the Windows Live Platform. “We’re proud to deliver this latest advancement in IM services that empower people to communicate with virtually whomever they want, wherever they want and whenever they want.”

“Interoperability between IM services has consistently topped our users’ wish lists, and through the collaborative efforts between Yahoo and Microsoft we are delighted to provide our combined global users with the ultimate IM experience,” said Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo’s senior vice president of communications, community and front doors. [What a title! Can I be senior assistant executive in charge of porch lights?] “A new era for staying connected with friends and family is here and the bridge between Yahoo and Microsoft’s IM communities is bringing people around the world closer together.”

Interoperability between Windows and Yahoo messaging applications is a clear shot across the bow of AOL’s widely-used AIM instant messaging service, and marks a departure from earlier days when instant messaging clients were involved in very public day-to-day shootouts over interoperability, routinely updating their servers and software to lock users into one (and only one) service. (Somehow, now that instant messaging is becoming one or two big happy families, those days seem more exciting!)