So there I was Googleracing with my friend Sandy and this particular race was more like a cross-country marathon than a sprint. And she pointed out that…pardon? Oh, what is Googleracing?

Googleracing is a game played with the Google Inc. search engine. The game starts when two or more people are on a telephone call when a question comes up that no one knows the answer to. The Googlerace begins to find the answer and the person who finds it first wins.

Anyway, Sandy was in San Francisco and she pointed out that we should really be chatting using instant messaging. When I first came across instant messaging I thought it was neat but not of much value to business. At the time, none of my business clients and colleagues were on it so it didn’t seem too useful. How wrong was I? Very.

It turns out that quite a few of my business associates are now using instant messaging, and it seems that instant messaging is becoming a critical component of corporate communications. There are several reasons for this.

First, instant messaging is immediate and less intrusive than other messaging methods. Second, instant messaging is low impact – messaging products are free or low-cost, the management overhead can be as low as you like, and the bandwidth use is trivial. Third, it provides a new dimension to communications – the awareness of the availability and status of the other members of your team, your department or even your whole organization.

Of course, in a corporate setting you might want to ensure (or require for legal reasons) strict control of instant messaging. And because there are lots of related collaboration tools that don’t interoperate, there’s also the Tower of Babel problem to solve (or should that have been Tower of Babble?).

Products such as Envoke from Asynchrony Solutions ( are emerging to address these issues.

Envoke makes instant-messaging systems secure, auditable bridges between different collaborative systems such as CUSeeMe and Lotus SameTime, and provides multiple client interfaces: a Web portal, a stand-alone Java client, and a Palm OS client for wireless communications.

An interesting extension to the Envoke system is an API that can add computer service connections to instant messaging. For example, a back-office database could be queried interactively just like any other instant-messaging user.

This kind of depth of service will make instant messaging part of your communications strategy rather than the liability that a user-driven ad hoc solution will be.

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