Messaging Goes Multimedia

Users of Skype and most of the popular instant messaging programs should soon all be able to talk to each thanks to new software coming soon from Santa Cruz Networks.

Supports IM Rivals

A new plug-in from Santa Cruz Networks released Thursday lets Skype and Google Talk customers make voice and video calls to each other, the company said.

Early next year, Festoon Unity, the new feature added to Santa Cruz Networks' Festoon application, will also support AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and MSN Messenger, so that users of those services, and those of Skype Technologies and Google, can all make voice and video calls to each other, Santa Cruz Networks representatives said.

Festoon, which users can download for free, currently enables customers of the Skype and Google Talk voice-over-IP services to make video calls, but only to other users on the same platform. The new release supports voice and video calls from one service to another, initially between Skype and Google Talk, and later among users of the various platforms.

Skype Adds Video

Separately on Tuesday, Skype released a beta of Skype 2.0 that supports video calling with other Skype users.

Santa Cruz Networks had previously released a videoconferencing add-on for Skype.

Festoon also lets users make group voice and video calls comprising as many as 200 participants. Future upgrades will include downloads of video effects and wallpapers, Santa Cruz Networks said.

Festoon has been downloaded 3.7 million times, according to Santa Cruz Networks. It can be used on PCs with Windows 2000 or Windows XP.

Since the first IM (instant messaging) services appeared, built on proprietary platforms, users and some providers have called for interoperability. While some IM services have formed interoperability partnerships with others, the platforms aren't open and compatible with all.

But the launch of Google Talk in August spurred renewed discussion of IM interoperability because Google built the application using an open protocol and said at the time that it was committed to working with other IM service providers to enable interoperability. Google added video to Google Talk in November.

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