Yahoo Cuts Off Trillian Users

Steps that Yahoo has taken to safeguard its Yahoo Messenger instant messaging service from spammers are also disrupting the legitimate use of the popular Trillian application, a problem that had been foreshadowed in recent weeks. Trillian is an application made by Cerulean Studios that lets users manage multiple IM accounts from a single console on their PCs.

The major IM providers, such as Yahoo, America Online, and Microsoft, haven't enabled their systems to interoperate. This means, for example, that a Yahoo IM user can't send a message to an AOL IM user. Thus, users normally end up connected to several IM networks simultaneously, having to toggle through the various services' IM management software, depending on whom they're communicating with.

Software such as Trillian doesn't solve the lack of interoperability but does alleviate the inconvenience by establishing a single IM console from which a user can send messages to other users on a variety of IM networks. For example, a user can have Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft IM buddies all listed in the Trillian IM application. Other software applications available perform in a similar way, but Trillian, with about 940,000 users in the United States in July, is the most popular software of its kind, according to market researcher ComScore Media Metrix.

Antispam Side Effect

Yahoo upgraded its Yahoo Messenger service in June by adding features designed to prevent IM spamming, and gave its users until September 24 to upgrade to this new version. The problem now appears to be that the new version of Yahoo Messenger doesn't play well with the Trillian application, something that had been expected. Cerulean Studios didn't immediately reply to an e-mail request for comments about this matter, but a message on its Web site acknowledges the problem and says the company is working hard to resolve it.

A Yahoo spokesperson declined to address the specific difficulties Trillian users may be facing, but acknowledged the upgrade could disrupt third-party software and services that aim to interoperate with Yahoo Messenger. "Our primary goal for the update is to prevent spammers from spamming our users. If this upgrade affects the way in which other services interact with Yahoo Messenger, it is a by-product of our efforts to protect users from spammers," said Mary Osako, Yahoo's director of communications.

Yahoo believes its users will appreciate the spam protection, even if these efforts cause other inconveniences, she said. Moreover, Yahoo is receptive to talking to other companies "that share our goal of opening IM communications in a seamless, secure, and convenient manner." She couldn't say, however, whether Trillian's makers had contacted Yahoo, or whether the companies were collaborating to restore Trillian's interoperability with Yahoo Messenger.

Analysts have pointed out that IM providers have been unwilling to establish interoperability among their members, in order to hold on to them. Moreover, IM providers value the real estate their IM software establishes on users' machines because they can use it to beam ads and promote other services. Software like Trillian allows users to access the Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL IM networks while bypassing the ads and pitches these companies send to the users' computers.

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