NetworkWorld on the IMPP WG deadlock

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From: Rohit Khare (
Date: Fri Sep 08 2000 - 16:25:38 PDT

Sorry, Patrik, but it is a failure if there are three IM protocols. However,
there is no avoiding it.

Long live instant HTTP! :-)

Rohit Khare


AOL out of instant messaging standard bake-off

      By Carloyn Duffy Marsan, Network World Fusion

      THE INTERNET ENGINEERING Task Force has zeroed in on three technical
proposals for creating an instant messaging standard, but the finalists do
not include market leader America Online.

      The three proposals -- developed by Cisco, Microsoft, Fujitsu, and
others -- were selected from a field of 10 proposals. AOL's last-minute
submission was a general framework for instant messaging interoperability
rather than a full-fledged protocol, so it was not chosen for further

      IETF officials say all three of the selected protocols appear to
interoperate with AOL's framework. AOL currently blocks instant messaging
traffic from competitors such as AT&T and Microsoft.

      "There are elements of our proposal in all three of the selected
proposals," says Edwin Aoki, a principal engineer with AOL who is tracking
the IETF effort. "We're not supporting any particular proposal. We will
examine them all to see which will meet our needs."

      The three protocol proposals selected for study by the IETF's Instant
Messaging and Presence Protocol (IMPP) working group are:

      -- IMPS (Instant Messaging and Presence using SIP), an approach that
uses the Session Initiation Protocol designed for telephone signaling
applications to handle instant messages and online presence perception. This
proposal team includes representatives from Cisco and Microsoft.

      -- IMXP, a proposal that uses the Blocks Extensible Exchange Protocol,
which itself supports XML-based messaging as its transport protocol. This
proposal team is led by start-up Invisible Worlds.

      -- SIMPLE (Simple Instant Messaging Protocol), which uses servers as
socket-level forwarders to transport messages. This proposal team includes
employees of Fujitsu and MIT.

      The merits of the three proposals were fiercely debated at a two-hour
meeting held Aug. 1. By the meeting's end, the group was deadlocked on
whether to choose one of the protocols or develop all three. If multiple
proposals are chosen, the group will develop a common data format and
gateways between the protocols.

      IETF leaders asked representatives of the three teams to prepare a
report outlining the commonalties and differences between their approaches
and articulate whether or not they can converge their work into a single
protocol. The report is due Aug. 21.

      "It's very important that people don't see it as a failure if we end
up with three protocols instead of one," said Patrik Faltstrom, who oversees
the IMPP working group as director of the IETF applications area. "We had to
develop gateways anyway because we have to interoperate between our protocol
and the ones used by AOL and [its subsidiary] ICQ."

      Aoki says it is premature for AOL to comment on whether it will
support multiple instant messaging standards if that's what the IETF

      "AOL will feel pressure to implement whatever standard the IETF
develops," asserted Keith Moore, a former IETF applications area director.
But, Moore said, "there's so much more potential for instant messaging in
the wireless world that AOL's installed base doesn't matter that much."

      Formed more than two years ago, the IETF's IMPP working group has made
little progress in its efforts to develop an instant messaging standard. The
group will hold its next meeting in December in San Diego.

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