It is well know that success on a product highly depends on the time it appears on the market. History has plenty of examples for all situations. Good products that appeared to early on an immature market were basically ignored. In other situations other products faced similar situations only by appearing too late.
The other obstacle besides time is the commercial companies themselves. Commercial interest had and will have always a higher priority in disfavor of end-user convenience.
Just try to imagine how internet would be today if instead of being initially developed in a nonprofit environment was developed by commercial companies.
Imagine 2 big email providers on the Internet offering email services: Yahoo and Microsoft. Each of these two providers will provide email in its own proprietary format that will work only inside the provider network. Sending emails to other Yahoo user is free but sending an email to a Hotmail user is impossible or maybe if it’s possible it will cost you 20cents per sent or received email. To send email to other provider such as a company email server may not be possible due to the fact that the two providers don’t have an agreement. You’ll not be able to choose your own email provider based purely on the features provided, you’ll also need to consider the one where you have most of your friends.
Now under the same supposition imagine nowadays web. To visit the 20 or so sites of yahoo you’ll just need one single application. Just one yahoo browser and you’ll be able to access web mail, games, personal, news, etc. ;-) The reality is that to access the sites of Microsoft again you’ll need to use just one simple application. Now extrapolate for the other sites and you’ll end up having thousands of browsers each one designed specially to support the proprietary binary format of web pages.
Just imagining this seems so impossible. The fact is that the applications that had the chance to appear on Internet before commercial companies to control it have brought the greatest benefits to end users: email, web, ftp, etc.
IM (Instant Massaging) and VoIP are simple Internet applications that because of their late apparition are still under heavy commercial interests. Just how simple the world will be if any user can choose a unique global identifier for IM or VoIP just how you choose for your email address or your home page. Then companies are welcomed to come with nice IMs, nice softphones or hardphones but in the end all will work under the same contract.