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Instant messaging is dead. There was the first-mover (IMO) ICQ. Then the incumbents entered with MSN and AIM, then YIM. After that, not in order, came the multi-protocol clients, the second wave of corporations like Google and Apple, and then the open source efforts. Now we have individual websites developing instant-messaging programs, fracturing the scene even more.


What we have today is an instant-messaging world that is utterly dead. ICQ is long gone, MSN and AOL stopped evolving a long time ago, the multi-protocol clients did that and nothing more, the second wave of companies like Apple and Google have failed to break out of niches, and the open source efforts haven’t gone anywhere. Even worse, there hasn’t been a shred of innovation in the instant messaging arena in ages.


These days, the de facto instant-messaging standard is the text message, it seems. It’s a universal standard, it’s added features are high-quality voice, there are no security risks associated with entering or storing passwords on open networks, it isn’t tied into other account services that are desired by scammers (i.e. email), and the format ensures that messages are simple and to the point.


If this is the case, it has an influence on my choices for portable computer and phone. It puts a lot more value on the N95 and K850 smartphones, and less on a device like a laptop. Rather, it puts the emphasis more on a cellular data radio. (Side question: we separate data radios for computers, why not for phones? Health and utility implications.)


I paused while writing this article to see what else might be out there and found this article: http://communication.howstuffworks.com/instant-messaging4.htm


After checking out the products, I last tried Qnext (http://qnext.com/), an interesting multi-protocol java app that also promises music sharing, something I’ve been wanting to be able to do for quite a while. Sure enough, Qnext lives up to its promises; it can stream music from your computer to your friends, which is a long overdue feature. Qnext is underdeveloped thus far, though, and is missing some features that would be handy, but if the team keeps innovating and marketing, they might do well. At the very least, I’m willing to switch, use, and endorse it. It also comes available for all three major platforms: Windows, OS X, and Linux.


As good as Qnext is, there’s still plenty of room for innovation in the IM field. For one thing, there are too many players, and that means people stuck with clients that aren’t up with the times.. If you want an idea, see (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant_message#User_base). This list breaks down seventeen clients alone, without mentioning Facebook, MySpace, Qnext, and surely a few dozen other clients.


Unfortunately, consolidation is highly unlikely without cooperation amongst the large incumbents, so for the time being, text messaging remains the de facto IM standard. Perhaps Symbian and the phone companies can come together to deliver an IM standard that can be carried over to computer desktops and sort things out that way. Till then, I think I’ve got my sights on the Nokia N95.