As the next-generation of Microsoft Flight Simulator rolls out of the hangar for take-off, we learned this morning that International Virtual Aviation Organisation, abbreviated as IVAO, is now MSFS compatible. The other similar free-of-charge network Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network abbreviated as VATSIM did confirm their MSFS support earlier. For newcomers, it may be confusing why there are two similar networks separating users. Why not just have one big network for more ATC coverage and pilots flying? Well, let’s see the history in short of how these networks were founded in the beginning.
The first pilot client for Microsoft Flight Simulator 95 (aka FS6.0, released in 1996) was SquawkBox released in 1997. It enhanced the FS6 built-in multiplayer to allow a large number of players to join. In at same year, a radar-simulation program ProController was released, allowing virtual air traffic controllers to share the server with pilots. Simulated Air Traffic Controllers Organization, abbreviated as SATCO, was the first large network using these two programs. Eventually, due management conflicts developed inside SATCO, in December 1998, IVAO was founded by a group of people who left SATCO. Later in July 2001, due to the network split, the SATCO was re-named to VATSIM.
While writing this I checked how many people are currently online and seems both IVAO and VATSIM are quite close the same. If you are having a hard time choosing which network to join, you should check your local division websites in both networks to see which one is a more active one. The more active airspace means more air traffic and controllers, as well as local Air Traffic Control training, can be expected if you later get interested in it.