Yahoo’s announcement today that it’s “jazzing up” its instant messenger amounts to adding in VOIP service to it and linking it to blogs. Yawn.
It seems to me that Yahoo, third place in the IM game (behind AIM and MSN), has missed the boat on this one. Instant Messenger can be a platform for new things (see SmarterChild) and could be expanded to add more variations and emotional richness, but what Yahoo doesn’t seem to get is that people use IM in particular ways as a form of communication, not as a replacement for another form of communication (voice calls). In much the same way I don’t blog because email is unavailable, I don’t IM because I can’t use my cell phone: I IM because it let’s me have interactions that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to (or want to) have.
IM has a lot going for it as a communication method: it’s silent, fast, indicates availability, and flexible enough for pauses that would be awkward in almost any other medium. It’s personal, yet not, allowing you to reveal as much of yourself as you want with as much control over your availability as you want. If Yahoo really wanted to move out of third place, there’s lots of other enhancements they could do to an IM client besides tethering it to other mediums of communication.