Lack of interoperability in the consumer IM market has been for years a major inconvenience for users, forcing them to sign up to multiple services, each with its own interface. Some third-party applications lessen the problem but don't truly solve it.
As the first interoperability agreement among two of the three major consumer IM providers, Wednesday's Yahoo-Microsoft announcement is likely to be remembered as a turning point: the day when the era of consumer IM interoperability began.
"This is a significant step forward for consumer IM. When you look at the usefulness of IM, it's important to have that interoperability. Right now you have all these little islands of IM. Interoperability has been sorely lacking, and that tends to limit the usefulness of IM," said Michael Osterman, president of industry analysis company Osterman Research Inc."