Unified Instant Messaging
I paid very little attention to the announcement of Google Talk, the latest addition to IM land. It's based on Jabber, which might be cool if any of the other clients also supported the same open standards. As it stands, I currently have accounts on eight different messaging services, if you include Skype and Gizmo Project as part of the instant messaging universe. Something must give in this standoff between the various parties and their refusal to integrate. Sure Trillian, Gaim and a handful of others are trying to combine everything into one location, but that's an imperfect solution because I still have multiple accounts to manage. I rarely sign in to any of the clients these days because I'm frustrated by the sheer energy of deciding what to support or not.
It's high time Yahoo, MSN and AOL start playing nice. Somehow Apple convinced AOL and Google to interoperate with iChat after a fashion. What I'd love to see is an IM world that worked the way music players or email clients work. Give me features I can't live without so I choose your IM instead of the competition. Integrate your IM client with my Flickr account, Yahoo. Integrate MSN Spaces with MSN Messenger and I might prefer the MSN IM. AOL has no hope because their music service is the only thing I really dig, but I won't count them out yet. Google could integrate with Blogger, Picassa, Google Maps and whatever else they've got tucked away. All these things would be a start. But I really need a killer feature I can't live without.
Google already has a leg up on everyone in one respect. PC calls through Google Talk sound killer when compared against every single other IM style VoIP service. We used it on The Chris Pirillo Show last night and it beat everything. Google Talk even sounded better than the landline. I think a caller from Baja Mexico sounded a little distant and the caller from Malaysia sound like there was some noise in the background, but considering the distance, the quality was quite acceptable. These are the kinds of features we need to see. Don't compete by locking my AOL buddy list away from my MSN contacts. Give me a reason to choose AOL instead of MSN. Who will provide the best video chat performance? Who will add ringback functionality so people trying to contact me when I'm offline hear the latest song from Usher? These are the features that can turn IM into an exciting playground. Competing on protocols is just outdated.