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Mobile operators have another go at killing IM and Skype

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Global trade body the GSMA is pushing its operator-interaction API Joyn with an emulator enabling developers to start work. It has also just announced that US mobile carrier MetroPCS has Joyned the club.

MetroPCS follows a handful of European operators in deploying the platform which the GSMA is hoping will drag customers back into the operator fold for all their communication needs. At the moment, most mobile customers are paying their mobe companies for talking and texting only, something which can only be helped by the launch of a Joyn Innovation Accelerator and developer workshops - with prizes...

Joyn is an API for instant messaging hosted by the network operator, though the GSMA would prefer the term Rich Communication Service (RCS). Joyn provides APIs for presence, file exchange, VoIP and IP video calling and messaging, allowing the operators to offer much the same functionality as Skype, only linked to a mobile-phone number rather than a Skype ID as Vodafone's Joyn app demonstrates:

The Accelerator includes some Android example code, a developer guide and a server to which one can connect to emulate the functionality which will be provided by the (Joyn-supporting) network operator, in the hope of stimulating some more-interesting Joyn applications.

It's not the first effort to provide a coordinated API for operator services, or even the first one from the GSMA, but recent efforts such as the OneAPI and WAC have focused on billing events rather than adding functionality, with limited success.

Joyn is much closer to Wireless Village, a similar specification launched more than a decade ago with the backing of Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia - the biggest names in the mobile business at the time. Wireless Village was a reaction to the burgeoning Instant Messaging networks which looked like they might steal customer loyalty away from the operators. But lacklustre support from those operators, leading to almost non-existent interoperability, strangled WV at birth.

Joyn is being better integrated, with operators such as Deutsche Telekom excluding Joyn transactions (including file transfer) from caps on data usage, and planning to offer Joyn on its fixed network next year.

The idea remains a good one, and the GSMA is a the right body to propose such a thing, but getting operators to implement it widely enough is a huge challenge.

If enough of them do sign up, then Joyn has the potential to be the messaging system of choice for hundreds of millions of users, wiping out Skype, Yahoo! Messenger and perhaps even taking a swipe at Facebook Chat, but the same thing could be (and was) said about Wireless Village more than 10 years ago. ®

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