In reading an article on CNet this morning about AOL asking the US FCC to drop a provision from the requirements given to AOL when they merged with Time-Warner, I considered the fate of IM interoperability over the last few years.
In 2001, the FCC pushed heavily for the interoperability of IM, with the intent that AOL not have a lock on this technology due to their ownership of both AIM and ICQ.
At the time, it was felt that if the major vendors (Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, etc) didn't cooperate, the amount of choice available to users would disappear due to lack of use.
So far, neither the interoperability nor the disappearance of choice has occurred. There is no standard for IM and the public seems quite happy with this situation, since they can install multiple messaging clients on their computers for the features that they want or to talk to the people that they want.
So, is this a problem? Why don't we see standardization?
My feeling at this point is that it is still too early for the IM technology for people to see standards for this. We've seen companies like Microsoft use IM as a front-end to use standards such as H.323 for videoconferencing. However, the real-time and presence technologies continue to evolve and it appears that there is still too little common ground between the players to benefit from substantial standardization.