I note, and describe:
- AOL sees the success of online instant messenging software ICQ and releases their own service, AOL Instant Messenger, and later purchases ICQ.
- Microsoft sees the success of..., etc., and releases their own service, MSN Instant Messenger. They don't purchase ICQ, because AOL got first choice in this particular Internet stickball match.
- Microsoft adds a wonderful new feature to their software that allows them to send messages to AIM users. The world gets 0.031% happier.
- AOL blocks the feature, despite making public documentation telling people how to use their protocol for that express purpose, by changing this protocol in a subtle way. The skies darken.
- MSN and AOL have a merry game of Protocol Tag, as Microsoft repeatedly adapts to AOL's new data exchange format almost as fast as AOL changes it.
- Microsoft gives up, though still making further attempts from time to time. Meanwhile AOL starts blocking other third-party, even free software (GAIM), programs which attempt to interact with their software.
- Microsoft subtly changes their services' log-in procedure to foil third-party programs which attempt to interface with MSN Instant Messenger.
- Meanwhile, throughout the world ten thousand times over, 59-year-old Uncle Walter and 60-year-old Aunt Gladys try to figure out why their computers won't talk to each other, in those words. Millions of power users run four or more different IM programs simultaneously, each of which a vastly bloated memory hog for no rational reason, and crash their machine if they even think about opening Notepad. The concepts of customer value and the public good were last seen boarding a bus to Sea of Tranquility, Moon, as each company attempts to leverage their own intentionally-segregated customers against the others and dominate the market for their freely-available services.
Thus, I conclude: