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Could Facebook breath new life into Instant Messengers?

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For as long as I have had a connection to the Web and the very first instant messenger, formerly known as ICQ, I have had an IM window open on one of my monitors. Whether it be through using one of the handy dandy IM programs that let you connect to multiple platforms or sticking with just the clients for my current two Internet Messengers of choice the ubiquitous IM chat window has been a part of my computing life.

With the advent of social media service like Twitter and Facebook though IM has kind of taken a back seat. It was further marginalized when Facebook launched their own in-house chat service. That could all change though if Facebook goes ahead with the rumored addition to their chat service that would allow it to work with any XMPP chat clients out there.

To clarify what XMPP means it boils down to a protocol referred to as Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol. Used by Google Talk XMPP is all but the defacto standard for messaging and presence on the web. Even Twitter used it for a short period of time before pulling it during its constant battle with the Fail Whale.

One might wonder why this is so important and could breath new life into Instant Messaging but for a really good answer one just has to read what Om Malik wrote about the news to understand why

Why is this news disruptive? Simple: So far in order to use the Facebook Chat to communicate, one needs to be logged into the Facebook website or mobile service. However, if the chat can be accessed on any device regardless of being logged into Facebook website, the usage of that IM is going to only increase. This would in turn mean tough times for older IM networks such as AOL’s AIM and Microsoft’s MSN.

To understand why independent Facebook Chat on the web (and on the wireless networks) is disruptive, just take a look at its amazing rise. It was prototyped in January 2007 at a Hackathon and become a real project in Fall 2007 with four engineers. In April 2008, the service went live for consumers and was available to 70 million Facebook users right now. As of last September 2009, nearly billion user messages were being exchanges every day with 1 GB traffic at its peak.

As Om notes this could spell trouble for messaging services like MSN but I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft isn’t working in a back room somewhere to try and build in XMPP support to Windows Live Messenger. The user base is just too big for them to ignore.

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