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MS proposes buddy list spec

Microsoft submits a proposal to the Internet Engineering Task Force in an effort to establish a standard for "buddy list" applications.

Microsoft (MSFT) has submitted a proposal to the Internet Engineering Task Force in an effort to establish a standard for "buddy list" applications that let users know when friends and business associates are online, the company said today.

Backed by 40 other vendors, the proposal, called "rendezvous protocol" (RVP), uses a distributed model that would enable the creation of interoperable client and server packages, allowing for communications between software from multiple vendors, the company said.

Conspicuously absent from the list of backers are both America Online and Netscape Communications. AOL offers a buddy list service called Instant Messenger, which lets AOL members know when selected friends and family members are online. Netscape earlier this month debuted a Communicator update that includes support for AOL's Instant Messenger service.

Microsoft representative Brent Ethington said his company contacted AOL about the protocol. "We asked if they would take part and they declined. We were going to contact Netscape, but the ball got dropped during the rush to get everything submitted," he said. "We would love them both to be on board, not only for support but actively involved in the process of establishing a standard."

Wendy Goldberg, an AOL representative, would not explain why her company was not among the 40 vendors supporting Microsoft's proposal. She did say, however, that AOL supports any effort to establish a standard. "As the largest service provider and the founder of the buddy list, we support open standards as long as they better the Internet experience for our users," she said.

Microsoft is hoping that the IETF, which is the principal body responsible for the development of new Internet standard specifications, will create an open Internet standard for identifying online presence based on its proposal.

Applications, that identify online presence, such as buddy lists, are becoming more popular as online users are demanding more and more real-time interaction over the Internet. Buddy lists are used for initiating a variety of online communications, including sending instant text messages, files, and pictures, as well as conducting audio- and videoconferences and issuing invitations to chat rooms and game-playing sessions.

In proposing the protocol, Microsoft is encouraging the industry to gather around a single presence standard that will ultimately result from the feedback and experience of industry leaders, the company said.

More than 40 leading industry vendors from Internet telephony, videoconferencing, and networking hardware companies as well as Internet service, community service, and content providers have announced their support for the creation of such a protocol, Microsoft said.

The open standards process in the IETF and the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) has led to the development of other Internet and telecommunication protocols and standards such as POP3 and SMTP for email, HTTP for text linking, IRC for chat, and H.323 for audioconferencing and videoconferencing.