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Thursday, 18 November, 1999, 19:22 GMT
Microsoft concedes on instant messaging
Microsoft's new software is not compatible with AOL's

Microsoft conceded defeat on Wednesday in a high-profile battle over instant-messaging battle with its rival America Online. But Microsoft said the reason was that to continue the fight would leave users open to a serious security risk.

The dispute between the two industry giants has been raging since July, when Microsoft, moving in on a hugely popular internet phenomenon, unveiled free software that allowed users to send instant messages to each other or to users of America Online.

Instant messaging is like a hybrid of e-mail and net chat rooms in that messages are exchanged in real time but only between specific users.

Cat-and-mouse

America Online (AOL) had claimed that the Microsoft (MS) software essentially hacked into its servers without authorisation and blocked the capability. This set off a cat-and-mouse game between software engineers on the two sides.

On Wednesday, MS released version 2.0 of its MSN Messenger Service, removing the ability to operate with AOL's AIM instant messaging service.

Yusuf Mehdi, director of marketing for Microsoft's internet group, said AOL had blocked interoperability by "exposing a very serious security bug" in its software.

"To provide an update to MSN Messenger Service that would continue to enable interoperability, Microsoft would need to put our own users at risk in a similar fashion," he said in comments posted on Microsoft's Web site.

He again called on AOL to support a move for a universal standard that would allow users of different software to send instant messages to each other, much as electronic mail has a single standard regardless of client software.

80 million users

AOL officials could not be reached for comment. In the past AOL executives have said that they favour such a standard, but that there are many issues of privacy and security that must be addressed first.

AOL has 80 million users of its two separate instant-messaging services, a massive lead over Microsoft, Yahoo and other rivals.

Microsoft said its messaging service has 4.5 million active, unique users, putting it on par with Yahoo's service.


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