Yahoo seems to have taken a hint from Microsoft and is planning changes to its instant messaging (IM) service that could lock out users of third-party IM clients.
The company last week started notifying users of older versions of its Yahoo Messenger client that they had to upgrade before September 24 or they would no longer be able to log on, Yahoo spokesperson, Mary Osako, said.
However, the move does not affect only users of older Yahoo IM clients. As a result of the Yahoo update, third-party IM clients could also be locked out of the Yahoo IM network. Users who connect to Yahoo's network via some versions of Trillian, a popular IM client that allows users to consolidate multiple IM accounts, also are getting Yahoo's alert to upgrade each time they log on.
"The upgrade likely will affect third-party clients," Osako said.
The Yahoo upgrade involves an update to the company's IM protocol and is meant to prevent abuse of Yahoo's network by senders of unsolicited instant messages, she said.
"We are implementing even more aggressive measures to protect users from potential spammers," Osako said. "If this upgrade affects the way in which other services interact with Yahoo Messenger, it is merely a byproduct of our efforts to protect our users from potential spammers."
Microsoft last month said it was updating its MSN Messenger service in October. That update also was expected to lock out third-party IM clients.
The company cited a security issue, but also said it simply did not want third-party clients using its network without some form of compensation.
Yahoo was open to talks with third parties about opening up the IM community, Osako said.
"However, our update is not driven by a desire to establish business relationships with third parties," she said.
Analysts said that Microsoft and Yahoo didn't want third-party clients on their networks because they used their own clients to deliver advertisements and direct users to other services.
"Both Microsoft and Yahoo value the control over the clients and the last thing they want is for their users to be using third-party clients on their networks," a research director with Jupiter Research, Michael Gartenberg, said.
An analyst at comScore Media Metrix, Graham Mudd, agreed.
"The major players see IM as a more important delivery medium and don't see any real business benefit from interoperating," he said.
Yahoo Messenger users who use Yahoo Messenger for Windows 5.0 or older, Yahoo Messenger for Mac 2.0 or older, or Yahoo Messenger for Unix 1.02 or older have to upgrade, Osako said. New versions of the software are already available at http://messenger.yahoo.com.
Cerulean Studios, maker of the Trillian IM client, did not respond to a request for comment on this story.