I've been highly critical of Google ever since Google Talk came out. Google Talk is based upon the open-source, patent free, instant messaging protocol called XMPP otherwise known as Jabber. Unfortunately, Google Talk has never been able to talk to other Jabber servers. That is, until today.
Today, Google flipped the switch that allows all Google Talk users to talk to all Jabber users.
Why is this such a huge deal? Think back to the days before the internet got big, when email was just starting to become popular. There were several providers to choose from. However, if I was on Compuserve and you were on Prodigy, we couldn't (easily) email each other. Worse yet, if I wanted to start my own little internet service provider, there was absolutely no way my customers could email you. Then along came the idea that email could use DNS. Letting DNS tell email servers how to route emails was revolutionary. Anyone could email anyone, anywhere, no matter what service provider they used. The Instant Messaging industry is in the exact same situation as email was before it used DNS. If I'm on MSN, I can't instant message you on Yahoo. Jabber, on the other hand, is an open protocol that uses DNS to route messages just like DNS routes email. I can have my own jabber server running on enigmacurry.com and I can instant message you on your server running on yourcoolserver.com.
However, Jabber has not gotten very big because no big company (like MSN, Yahoo and the like) have any incentive to dethrown themselves off the IM food chain.. and because all the IM services are free anyway and there is such a huge user base already, the users have little incentive to change either.
Today, Google fully embraces Jabber. This means that Jabber now has a huge company with large amounts of dollars publicly declaring that you can use whatever network you want (that uses Jabber) and connect to us and talk with our users. The incentive that Google has though, is that they will be first. If Google plays it right, pushing the "openness" of it all.. people will flock to it.
Good move Google.
Now, I'm off to make some "additions" to ECsniff.. You can pry gaim-encryption from my cold dead DSL line.