A great article has surfaced about the current state of IM and it's possible future. It goes on about how Google has the power to change the way IM is now and get rid of the 4 huge closed IM protocols to adopt 1 open protocol everyone can communicate on. The article is a little lengthy but very worth the time to read it.
I'll try and summarize it here for you. Basically, when email first started taking off, there were a half a dozen email protocols, each requiring you to be on their network to use it. So you could only send email to other people on your same network. Then came SMTP, which was an open protocol that let you send an email to any network. How this works is, the SMTP server you are on, finds the SMTP server you are sending your mail to and sends the message there. That server then serves you the message. Quite simple, and it got rid of all the annoyances that were involved with sending email to users that weren't in your network. Now, if you look, we have the same problem with IM today. For almost 10 years, very little has changed with IM. We have ICQ, AIM, MSN, and Yahoo!. All of these are closed networks. You need an account on each network to talk to others on that network. ICQ and AIM are now (kind of) on the same closed network, but that doesn't help very much.
Google just released their IM program called Google Talk which includes a very open IM protocol called Jabber. Jabber has been around for a while but hasn't gotten the huge support it deserves. The great thing about Jabber, is it's not centralized. There is no 1 big server you reside on. Just like your email account, your Jabber ID includes a name w/ a @somewhere.com. This way, when you send a message, Jabber knows where that message should be going and looks for the Jabber server somewhere.com. Meaning, just like email today, if everyone was using Jabber, we would all be able to talk to anyone with one client on 1 network. It's great that Google has adopted the Jabber protocol, but they left that part of Jabber out. Google Talk still only talks to those on the Google Talk Jabber server.
The point I'm trying to make now, is read that article and send Google an email telling them to change their ways. Google is big enough to change the way we communicate w/ IM. Make sure Google lives up to the 'Open Communication' they talk about all the time. It's still early enough to make a difference here!