Instant Allies In the Messaging War

The instant messaging flap is making for some strange Internet bedfellows.

On Friday America Online Inc. said it signed deals with competitors MindSpring Enterprises Ink. of Atlanta and EarthLink Network Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., to offer joint instant messaging services over the Internet.

EarthLink and MindSpring executives have criticized AOL's service, with MindSpring's Web site calling for users to "Escape AOL!" and offering information about how to move away from AOL's service.

They have publicly became friends with AOL after the Dulles company agreed to work more energetically for open standards in messaging. It had fought a drawn-out battle with Microsoft Corp. over the technology -- Microsoft launched a new product that let users communicate in real-time with the AOL instant message crowd, but AOL blocked the messages.

Listen Up! This Is a Test

Four Washington area radio stations are on a team that is testing new radio broadcast technology developed by USA Digital Radio of Columbia. WETA-FM, WHFS-FM, WJFK-FM and WTOP-AM are among 12 stations in five cities that are doing field tests on the system, which is designed to boost sound quality and convey information such as performer and song name for display on tiny screens on the radio.

Music fans can't listen, however -- the special radios aren't on the market. Rather, the tests are for engineers, who take readings from vans traveling around the area. Part of the goal is to receive the signals from multiple locations and see how they hold up in the real world of hills, buildings and highway overpasses.