All Together Now

Instant-messaging services are fast, free and a lot of fun. So why won't AOL play with the others?

Earlier this month, instant messaging (or IM for short) made headlines when it became the final sticking point in the biggest merger in history, the deal that joined AOL and Time Warner (proud owner of this magazine) in corporate matrimony. The Federal Communications Commission wouldn't approve the union without special conditions regarding AOL's IM policy. Why the fuss? After all, some nonsophisticates argue, IM is just a kid's toy--e-mail for the Dawson's Creek crowd. Isn't it?

Hardly. IM is one of the Internet's true killer apps. It's free, and it's instant (duh), but what the RCC recognized is that IM isn't...

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