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imoWell, that’s remarkably stupid.

I just received an email today from imo.im, an instant message web/mobile app that I’ve used on my desktop computer, my iOS devices, and my Android devices. The point of the service was to aggregate multiple accounts—AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, etc.—together in one web window so you could access all your IM services from anywhere you were. Or so I thought, at least.

But apparently the good people running imo don’t see it that way.

To provide the best and most reliable service for our users, we need to focus on the areas we feel we can make the biggest impact. We are now going to concentrate on building out our own communications platform to help people easily connect in their everyday lives. Our goal is to create the fastest and most reliable messaging, voice and video call service in the world.

On March 3, 2014, we will start discontinuing support for all third-party instant messaging networks. We know change isn’t always easy, but we hope our users will trust that this will make imo an even better service.

This is tantamount to, say, Calibre suddenly up and deciding that it would drop support for converting into all e-book formats in favor of some brand new one it just made up, which was only supported by one application on on some obscure platform. Or imagine Google News deciding it was going to stop aggregating stories from other news sites and just post stories from its own reporters. It’s getting rid of the feature that the vast majority of people would have used the app for—which means shedding pretty much its entire user base of 10 million people. It doesn’t make any sense.

Having multiple instant message accounts is important for people like writers who have a pseudonym that they want to keep separate from their real-world persona, but still want to be able to communicate with their fans under. And if you’re going to do that, you need a separate multi-IM web app type of solution so that you can keep those accounts in separate sandboxes and not get confused and use the wrong one by accident. I imagine that if J.K. Rowling were an Internet fiction writer, she would have set up separate IM accounts for her “Robert Galbraith” persona; ditto Stephen King and “Richard Bachman”.

Many IM services support their own video and voice chat methods; there’s no reason why people would need to go to a third-party service like imo for that if it weren’t that it let them aggregate all their IM services into one handy web chat window. And what do they think, the people who use it for that are going to keep imo around afterward just because it lets them make video calls—a service of theirs I’ve never used once in all the time I’ve had their service? There are other multi-IM web services out there. I guess I’ll be finding one now.

 
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