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As long as AOL users are only able to IM one another, they have a greater incentive to remain subscribers rather than use portals that offer e-mail and other content and services for free.

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Open Letter Confronting AOL’s Heel-Dragging On Opening IM Coincides With Ongoing Time Warner Cable Battle
Online colossus America Online is under pressure to let users of other ISPs access its members via Instant Messaging. Meanwhile, Time Warner is under assault over potential content dominion.

It's all part of the pre-merger soap opera.

In a paper released on 7/21, a coalition of 16 rivals, including relatively large services like Microsoft's MSN and [email protected] as well as lesser-known outfits such as CMGI, claims AOL is dragging its feet on allowing the "interoperability" of other providers' IM services with its own.

As long as AOL users are only able to IM one another, they have a greater incentive to remain subscribers rather than use portals that offer e-mail and other content and services for free.

While AOL has committed in principal to allow other IM providers access to its user base, the coalition of competitors claims the company has done nothing to expedite the process. The "You've Got Mail" people insist their deliberate pace has everything to do with protecting users' security.

"There is no evidence of effort with an attempt to come up with a solution," declared Ross Bagully of CMGI's Tribal Voice unit, who added that AOL has committed to neither a time frame nor a specific technological approach.

Microsoft unleashed a voice-enabled version of its IM service last week. Even so, the 16 complaining entities combined have a mere fraction of AOL's users.

The attack is part of a multi-pronged assault on the potentially monopolistic reach of the proposed AOL-Time Warner merger, which is currently under review by the FCC. On 7/24, the NBC TV network joined Disney in urging stringent limitations on the marriage; Time Warner's recent flap with Disney over the blackout of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" illustrates the roiling conflict shaping up around cable dominance in the Web era.

As Disney lobbyist Preston Padden told Bloomberg, the merger is worrisome as it "marries AOL's closed and proprietary walled garden market environment with Time Warner's content assets and bottleneck cable distribution pipelines. The net result is a nightmare scenario in which they make elephant bucks and we don't. The American people won't stand for that."

In a related story, a kid in East Orange who made his own Mickey Mouse costume out of a shopping bag received a C&D letter from Disney's attorneys.

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