imo.im ending support for third-party chat services to focus on its own

Popular chat consolidator, imo.im, is ending support for the very services that helped it rise to prominence over the past few years.

The company announced in an email this week that “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.”

That support ends today, March 3rd, for services like Facebook, Google Talk and more. There is likely a second, more insidious reason imo is doing this: third-party messaging services are increasingly locked down, moving away from open standards like XMPP to cross-platform silos. This makes it more difficult to facilitate synchronization between chat windows, as APIs like Google Talk are being minimized in favour of the company’s Hangouts product.

In other words, open messaging is bad business. imo has been adding features, like video chat and voice services, to its Android, iOS and web apps in the past few months, and recently launched a global “feed” like Twitter for its user base to interact in the open.

It’s unclear whether imo.im will retain its user base as a result of this change — it rose to prominence on the web largely for supporting other messaging services — but it’s clear that such a future was untenable. It now charges users $4.99/year for an ad-free Premium Account, and sells sticker packs at $0.99 a pop.

Users have until March 7th to download chat history at o.imo.im.