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America Online Communications

AOL Locks Out AIM Screen Names 396

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the out-to-lunch dept.
dshaw858 writes "According to a story on eWeek, AOL has mistakenly suspended a very large number of AOL Instant Messenger (one of the most widely used IM programs) accounts, by mistake. I don't know about you guys, but this happened to me and a large percentage of friends and coworkers. AOL says that a fix should be ready by Monday."
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AOL Locks Out AIM Screen Names

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  • AOL (Score:3, Funny)

    by bryan986 (833912) on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:45AM (#11049464) Homepage Journal
    America Offline
  • by Sinner (3398) on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:45AM (#11049467)
    If they'd mistakenly suspended those accounts on purpose, I'd be really worried about it!
  • Doh (Score:5, Funny)

    by BigJStudd (838390) on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:46AM (#11049472)
    I knew I should have opened the attachment on that e-mail which AOL was tracking to make sure my account was tracking :(
  • OMG LOL (Score:5, Funny)

    by YouCanCallMeAl (773817) on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:47AM (#11049474)
    wtf? u2?
    • Me too!

      [So slashcode has an aol feature? From the preview:

      This exact comment has already been posted. Try to be more original...

      So, I added this commentary even though the exact comment had not been posted]

  • AIMs (Score:5, Funny)

    by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:47AM (#11049477) Journal
    Bah, who needs AIM? I build my own IM clients out of Lego.
  • Definitely got me (Score:5, Informative)

    by remigo (413948) on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:48AM (#11049479)
    I can vouch that this was indeed the case. Two of the handful of screenames I use on a regular basis were being punted at stage two of the sign in with an error about the account being suspended.

    The box had a little "More Info" button that I clicked on that was supposed to explain why my account had been suspended. Two of them had to do with actual AOL accounts (mine are AIM only), the third had to do with being less than 13 (I can buy beer), and the last was a "you violated the TOS" option.

    Dunno what happended, but as of last night, all of my screen namers were back up and running. The disconnections seemed to have no relation to the e-mail address they were registered to or when the last time I used them was.

    *shrug*
    • Dunno what happended, but as of last night, all of my screen namers were back up and running. The disconnections seemed to have no relation to the e-mail address they were registered to or when the last time I used them was.

      Yeah, this has been going on for over a week. It escapes me as to why AOL having problems with screen names is frontpage material for slashdot. Maybe Timothy will grace us with a few Wired conspiracy articles or another link on how to build a PC in a house with kids (huh).
  • by brxndxn (461473) on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:48AM (#11049480)
    It seems the computer industry is prone to these accidental 'monopolies'. Sure, there are other instant messaging networks, but almost everyone uses AOL/AIM. Sure, there are other OS's, but almost everyone uses Windows.

    Too bad there isn't a more decentralized open standard for instant messaging..

    • by bob65 (590395) on Friday December 10, 2004 @04:01AM (#11049536)
      Sure, there are other instant messaging networks, but almost everyone uses AOL/AIM. Sure, there are other OS's, but almost everyone uses Windows.

      Um, I don't think the AIM "monopoly" is anywhere near the size of the Windows monopoly. I personally don't know *anyone* that uses AIM - if we were to choose a monopoly I would say it's either ICQ or MSN Messenger (with the latter increasing in usage recently). Personally, all my contacts use ICQ (geeks and non-geeks alike).

      • Interesting, because almost everyone I know uses AIM solely. I guess different segments of the population tend to split into groups...

        But on another hand, the problem is worse than that of an OS. I can switch to Linux very easily (in fact I have). It may not be popular, but that doesn't affect my use much. On the other hand, if I were to switch from AIM to Messenger or ICQ, it'd be useless because I know about 3 people who use them.
        • I guess different segments of the population tend to split into groups...

          This would make sense, since what IM service we use is largely dictated by who we need to communicate with...

        • by TiggsPanther (611974) <tiggs@nOspAm.m-void.co.uk> on Friday December 10, 2004 @05:03AM (#11049702) Journal
          On the other hand, if I were to switch from AIM to Messenger or ICQ, it'd be useless because I know about 3 people who use them.

          That's precisely when I switched to using Trillian as a client and, more recently, Gaim since switching to Linux.

          Most of my contacts were ICQ, but I had a few on MSN and a couple on AIM. Trillian or Gaim meant that I could have one program open yet be on multiple networks, meaning I could communicate with all of them.

          The distribution's a bit different now, as most of my contacts are on MSN, but it's still useful because of this. If I meet someone new on one of the other networks I'm not out of contact simply because I mainly use another.
          Sure if one of the networks dies (or folds totally) it'd still bite for that network, but can still access the others. Plus I can build up a list of contacts on a different network without having to move away from the current one.

      • Can confirm ICQ rule. _Everybody_ using 'Net around here use ICQ. I wonder whether AIM is a US-bound kind of "monopoly".
      • by fyonn (115426) <dave@fyonn.net> on Friday December 10, 2004 @05:16AM (#11049736) Homepage
        Personally, all my contacts use ICQ (geeks and non-geeks alike).

        you know that aim and icq are connected right? as long as you're using vaguely recent clients for icq and aim, then clients on each can speak to the other easily, and appear on buddy lists etc.

        I use ichat and have both aim and icq accounts on my buddylist.

        FYI. in ichat, to enter in icq buddies, you simple put them in your address book, add a new aim account to that person and put their icq number in it. then use ichat to add that person as a new buddy.

        dave
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I have lived in three different countries and this is what I have noticed

        All my American friends use AIM
        All my Philipino friends uses Yahoo Messenger
        All my Australian Friends uses MSN (used to be ICQ a few years ago)

        In each respective country I have never seen any else ask for another network besides that and thinks noone uses the other networks (eg. While living in philippines almost everyone asked for Y!, while atm in australia everyone assumes you use MSN)

        So it depends on the country really...
    • Too bad there isn't a more decentralized open standard for instant messaging..

      That would be XMPP/Jabber.

    • almost everyone uses AOL/AIM

      Do they? I don't know *ANYONE* who does. All my IM contacts except for 2 are on MSN, and the others are on yahoo. And one of the yahoo contacts has got an MSN account, so I talk to her on that.

      Not much of a monopoly.
    • by lav-chan (815252) on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:10AM (#11049856)

      Around here (Iowa), we (and by that i mean my generation -- i'm 18 years old) started out on MSN Messenger. This was in, i don't know, maybe grade five for us 'early adopters' and then six or seven for everybody else. MSN was the thing in my area for all of my friends to use. I don't know why exactly we all started using it (because i'm pretty sure back then MSN wasn't bundled with Windows yet), but we did.

      One of my friends went off and found some on-line friends, probably computer-game buddies or something, and because of those friends he started using AIM. After that, he slowly started converting everybody else he (and the rest of us) knew to AIM, and after that everybody pretty much used both.

      In secondary school, all of us nerdy types started using Trillian, which pretty much made specific protocols meaningless. Today, most of my friends (both on-line and off-line) have both, whether they use Trillian/Miranda/whatever or not. Probably 3/4 of the ones who don't have AIM only. The other fourth have MSN only.

      Currently, MSN is becoming really really popular with the people i'm friends with for some reason, probably because of all the fancy doo-dads they're including now like themes and custom emoticons and big avatars (and i suppose the latter two are actually kind of neat, from a having-fun perspective).

      I don't know if this is the norm for my area, but (to generalise) it seems like the more intelligent people are starting to flock to MSN. Whereas a few years ago your typical MSN screen name would be (8)(8)(8)(8)ju$+in CRAWLING IN MY SKIN THESE WOUNDS THEY WILL NOT HEAL FEAR IS HOW I FALL CONFUSING WHAT IS REAL sandy i luv u(8)(8)(8)(8), people are actually starting to be, you know, not retarded about it. e.g., they'll just use their name or their handle instead of putting an entire song in it. I don't know, maybe that's just a sign of increased maturity. It applies to younger kids (still in high school) that i know, too, though, so who knows.

      ON THE OTHER HAND, the trendy girls and all the boys who try to hit on them, the kind of people i'd call 'preps', who listen exclusively to top-40 radio and wear Abercrombie and Fitch, stick with Yahoo!'s messenger. I don't really know why -- Y!IM is hideous and bloated, but OK. My little brothers and sisters use Y!IM, and they have, you know, 9084058940809345 different buddies and every single one of them has a screen name like the ridiculous one i described above, except of course it's Nelly lyrics or something. These are the kids who can't spell 'you'.

      I suppose maybe one factor that contributed to the adoption of Y!IM by the middle-schoolers and freshmen in my area was the fact that Y!IM has a built-in radio thing, which means they can sit there and listen to 50 Cent while they're chatting about LOL SHUTUP SUK MY KOK GURL.


      Just thought you'd be interested in hearing about the social break-down in relation to instant messengers in my area!

  • by dswensen (252552) * on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:49AM (#11049481) Homepage
    1) Oh no! This could really hurt AOL's rock-solid reputation as a competent and professional Internet service provider!

    2) I heard they're gonna ship the patch for this problem on ten million CDs!

    3) The good news is, almost all AOL users are too dumb to notice they've been locked out!

    4) "You've got ..." Oh, the hell with it.
  • congrats (Score:5, Funny)

    by Emugamer (143719) * on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:49AM (#11049484) Homepage Journal
    you sucsessfully made me log into AIM for the first time in months ti see if I was affected, only to be greeted by annoying friends from a long time ago with LONG TIME NO SEE...

    bah
  • Ummmmmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kaedemichi255 (834073)
    Why would they suspend accounts in the first place? I've never heard of anything like this. I guess the accounts of the IM spammers could be susceptible to suspension. Other than that, what else?
    • Re:Ummmmmm (Score:2, Interesting)

      by malsbert (456063)
      America Online Inc. has confirmed that it mistakenly deactivated a number of AOL Instant Messenger accounts this week as part of its regular cycle of opening unused screen names to new users.

  • And I was worried I'd lose the name 'bearded Croat'.
  • by VonGuard (39260) on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:51AM (#11049496) Homepage Journal
    Workplace productivity grows by leaps and bounds for a three day stretch.
  • AOL's fault? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by casuist99 (263701) on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:52AM (#11049499) Homepage Journal
    I know a lot of people will take this opportunity to laught at AIM users for using a closed protocol. Now lets be honest: how many of you here use AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, or MSN Messenger? I suspect that whichever of these services most of your friends use, you are likely to use.

    Here's my whole point. Instead of saying it's the user's fault and proprietary protocols lead to this sort of thing, why don't we use it as an opportunity? With the outage of AIM for a weekend fresh in their minds, talk to your friends. Let them know that you found a "cool, new program" called Jabber (or some other open-protocol service) that wasn't out for the weekend. Get a few to at least try it out.

    If at least a few of each of our friends AND WE try a different protocol and chat program, there's a chance that we can finally stop making fun of AIM users. (I know it's fun, but wouldn't using a better protocol be even better?)

    Just remember - AOL may have given us a golden opportunity here. Let's take advantage of it rather than complain for the next year.
    • Still a very uphill battle to convert users over though...

      The typical demographic that favours convenience/sinks to the level of using AIM would probably not be competent enough to set up anything else on their computer... On the other hand, do we really want to trust them to do so? ;-)
      • You mean the demographic that sinks to using msn messenger.. Afterall it does come installed on windows xp and nag and nags ... With aim. You have to go download the client and install it.. Unless they have aol. Which case they arn't on my list Now one of those demographics seems a little more inclined not to be stupid. I stopped using msn messenger when everyone kept changing their alias That everyone just used for a motd.. Also aim is so much more reliable then msn messenger. Msn im goes down for main
    • Jabber is still around? Tried it a few years ago, found their client irritating (not to mention I know nobody that uses it). Which IM service to use is very low on my Geek-Evangelism scale (I use most of my efforts getting people off IE and Outlook). My AIM is still up and running, in any case.
      • Jabber is still around? Tried it a few years ago, found their client irritating (not to mention I know nobody that uses it).

        There are plenty of Jabber clients around - choose one you do like (I use gAIM).

        The nice thing about Jabber is that it's not designed to have a single company owning (and screwing up) a central server - you can run your own Jabber server if you like and will be unaffected by other servers going down (unless you need to talk to someone who actually uses that other server).
      • Re:AOL's fault? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Jabber is actually getting kinda huge. You wouldn't know it because it's going the opposite route of most open source software... it's getting big in the enterprise first. Lots of big (and I mean BIG) companies that don't want to allow their users open IM access use jabber for internal communications.

        It has relatively huge industry support, believe it or not.
    • If at least a few of each of our friends AND WE try a different protocol and chat program, there's a chance that we can finally stop making fun of AIM users. (I know it's fun, but wouldn't using a better protocol be even better?)

      I don't think we need to worry about AIM users in the future - the *only* people I've seen using AIM are those over 30 years old - pretty much anyone between 18-30 (geek or not) uses something else like ICQ - just give it a few years, and we'll start making fun of ICQ users inste

      • Re:AOL's fault? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mornelithe (83633) on Friday December 10, 2004 @04:37AM (#11049639)
        I have different experiences. All of my friends, and pretty much everyone I'm aware of at my university uses AIM, and we're all 22 or under.

        I haven't met anyone who uses ICQ in years, although I hear it's more popular outside of the US.

        I can't comment on the growing MSN population though. I always forget to ask that when I lure children into my van with promises of free candy and ice cream.
        • I can't comment on the growing MSN population though. I always forget to ask that when I lure children into my van with promises of free candy and ice cream.

          THAT WAS YOU!?!?!?

          I still feel dirty....
    • Re:AOL's fault? (Score:3, Informative)

      by AusG4 (651867)
      Me: "AIM is down. Try this cool new program."

      Them: "Why? Nobody I know is on this thing except you and it doesn't seem any better than MSN/AIM/ICQ anyways. You say it's "open". What does "open" mean? Oh, I see. So what?"

      As long as AOL is the worlds largest ISP, AIM will probably be the largest instant messaging system. As long as Windows Messenger comes with Windows, it'll probably be right there in second (if not first at some point).

      I'd love to see Jabber take over, but I hold no illusions. FireFox is
    • Re:AOL's fault? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Friday December 10, 2004 @04:29AM (#11049620) Homepage
      They got video and voice chat working with these "open" standards yet? Nope? Well, then it's useless to me.
    • I, and I suspect most slashdotters, use a multi-protocol client, in my case Kopete [kde.org]. And I do ask people to use Jabber, as it's the only way file transfers work for me, but few of them listen.
  • OLD news. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This happened to me MONTHS ago. I had my AIM account for six or seven years and had at least a couple hundred contacts (personal and professional) in it. I used it for work and personal. I've lost touch with many people because I no longer have that account or their information.

    It just happened out of the blue. I called AOL and they said that they couldn't help me unless I was an AOL user. They suggested that I pay to become an AOL user, then call in and get them to fix my AIM account, then cancel my AOL a
    • Re:OLD news. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:13AM (#11049865) Journal
      1. The old adage "you get what you pay for" seems to apply here. AOL isn't a F/OSS endeavour, it's a for-profit corporation, so it's understandable why they would think that providing tech support (which costs them money to supply) to non-paying users isn't high on their list of priorities.

      No offense, but you really should have had that information backed up somewhere - it's not AOL's fault that you didn't.

      2. Given that you were given a way to recover your AIM account - sign up for AOL and then cancel after a short period - I can't believe that you didn't take that option. After all, you could probably have got what you needed to get done within a month's free trial, and even if you didn't it wouldn't have cost you that much to recover the information. Just how much is all that data - "at least a couple hundred contacts (personal and professional)" - worth to you anyway?

      Not taking this option seems ridiculous to me, especially as it would have cost you very little if anything at all. Seems like you really cut off your nose to spite your face by not even trying that route. "Of course, why would I want AOL?!", you asked. Seems to me that you'd want it (albeit for a very short while) so you could get your vital data back.

      3. Just what did you expect AOL to do? Did you expect free tech support for life as well as a free instant messaging service from them? And do you really blame them for your decision not to back up your data? It might seem harsh, but if you go through life looking for altruism and miracles all the time then you're destined to live a life of disappointment.

      Sorry, but I find it hard to be sympathetic: you did everything that you shouldn't have and somehow you have the impression that none of the blame is yours. It's like someone setting out on a drive across a desert without checking their oil level, breaking down because of it, then eschewing the help offered by the one garage that can help you get out of the mess because it would cost you a few bucks, and then blaming the car manufacturer and the garage owner because you didn't get to your destination on time.

      I have one piece of valuable advice to you: learn from this mistake and next time, if you've got so much at stake, take the help that's offered to you.
  • by SynapseLapse (644398) on Friday December 10, 2004 @04:07AM (#11049551)
    Please for the love of God look into Gaim. [sourceforge.net] Far less bloated, no ads, and it just plain works.
  • sadly... (Score:5, Funny)

    by agent0range_ (472103) on Friday December 10, 2004 @04:07AM (#11049552)
    AIM users might be forced into interacting with real people for a whole weekend...

    No, wait. There's still TV.
  • This is why you should use an open IM network like Jabber [jabber.org].

    Amoungst other things, it's well designed enough not to require everyone to use a central server - run your own server if you want and you're then responsible for any screwups on it.
    • I just installed my own Jabber server, but nobody I know has an account on it so I'm now talking to myself.

      How am I further ahead, exactly?
      • I just installed my own Jabber server, but nobody I know has an account on it so I'm now talking to myself.

        You obviously have no clue how Jabber works. What you just said is like "I set up my own mail server but noone else has an account on it so I'm talking to myself".

        Of course Jabber servers can talk to eachother - thats why it's called the Jabber Network
        • Oh no, I'm well aware of how it works...

          But it doesn't change the fact that having a myriad of dispirate Jabber Networks is far less useful than a single unified network, for the average users perspective... at least in the context of instant messaging as most people think of it.

          Much regards to Jabber, but saying "hey, use this product that isn't quite the same as what you're using because it's open" to most people is a lost cause...

          I have AIM, you have AIM, we can talk.

          I have Jabber, you have Jabber...
          • Re:Open IM (Score:3, Informative)

            by FireFury03 (653718)
            I have Jabber, you have Jabber... are we on the same Jabber network? How do I connect to your network?

            What? You're not making any sense - it's all automatic. If I'm logged onto the server example1.com with username "bar" and you're logged onto example2.com with username "foo" then I can IM foo@example2.com and it Just Works - this is exactly the same as how you send mail - you don't need to worry about how the network interconnects, you just address your email to someuser@somedomain.com and it Just Work
  • AIM users are like giant squid (but with fewer arms). You hear about them, occassionally a giant tentacle washes up on shore, but nobody's ever actually seen one.

    Seriously though who the hell uses AIM? Nobody has ever asked me for my MSN address. For two years now, since ICQ died, it's always been MSN this MSN that. If AIM has even 10% of the MSN userbase, surely someone would have asked me for my AIM info by now? Am I missing something here?
    • Re:Unicorns (Score:2, Informative)

      by skizrule (701743)
      In my experience, AIM tends to be very popular among the college-age crowd in the Midwest and East Coast, while MSN has the majority of the market in Canada and on the West Coast. Seeing new students come to school from various areas of the country seems to confirm this, although almost everyone gets an AIM address to use while they are here, even those on MSN back home.
    • AIM users are like giant squid (but with fewer arms). You hear about them, occassionally a giant tentacle washes up on shore, but nobody's ever actually seen one.

      it's obviously the group you're in. I know alot of people with aim and icq addresses. not all of them non-technical people either, some of them are extremely technically knowledgable. alot of them have icq accounts as it was the first major IM protocol (irc excluded, they all irc too :).

      and aim and icq are connected so those two can talk to each
    • Definately has to do with where you live. Ex. I live in Atlanta, and I hardly know ANYONE with an MSN address. The only people who do are either A) From out-of-town or B) use their AIM much more. Here, everyone has AIM, it's the norm. You would have a hard time finding someone in my HS without it.
  • This isn't really a surprise. The AIM network has occasional (regional) outages. I occasionally see "Hey, is anyone else having trouble with AIM?" chats on IRC.

    They also blacklist IP addresses for absolutely no reason. Typo in a list? Error in a program? Who knows - they escalate the issue and several weeks later, you might have an answer.

    Either AOL is horribly understaffed, or they're really running things into the ground faster than expected.

    (Yes, I worked there. I saw cool stuff, I saw clueless behavi
  • AOL Instant Messenger (one of the most widely used IM programs)

    ...in the US. And whoever said slashdot isn't US-centred?
  • Future of AIM? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rm999 (775449) on Friday December 10, 2004 @04:48AM (#11049669)
    Almost everyone I know (I am a college student) uses AIM exclusively. If AIM were to suddenly disappear, many people would be lost. At the rate AOL is going, how long can AIM be sustained? It costs them money to pay for the servers and update the software. Are there any good alternatives that have some sort of guarantee of staying power?
  • What's in an IM? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by moriya (195881)
    If it said "very large number", it surely is a small percentage of the total overal AIM userbase. I'm still connected. However, seems amusing that AOL did that.

    As for it being one of the most widely used, that's probably true. But to all those who think the AIM protocol or whatnot is junk, one could say the same about any other protocols. Instead, one should be asking yourself as to what another person would say had a bunch of friends were on Yahoo! or Messenger? To me, I've a bunch of people on AIM.
  • by moshe_be (796621)
    UPDATE users SET suspended = 1; Oops, we forgot the where part!
  • by phreakv6 (760152) <phreakv6@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday December 10, 2004 @05:31AM (#11049765) Homepage
    It certainly is happening for more than a week.Check out this [blizzhackers.com] thread.
  • by phreakv6 (760152) <phreakv6@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday December 10, 2004 @05:41AM (#11049783) Homepage
    This age verification flaw [pcmag.com] was already in the limelight sometime back.
  • How bad is their suspension system that they have to devise a fix for it that takes them the whole weekend (granted, they probably won't be working on it over the weekend)?

    Don't they use transactions, or logs, or even an undo feature?
  • This shows once more the many drawbacks of proprietary IM protocols and servers.

    Let's not even mention that they probably log all messages that has ever been sent through them, just like Google logs all search queries.

    Jabber doesn't have these problems and it's an open standard with free software available.
    You can setup your own servers. It can talk to other jabber servers. You can use SSL/TLS encryption to talk to your server and you can use OpenPGP end-to-end encryption if you want no cleartext availabl
  • For all people here who have suggested using Jabber or even other clients like Gaim or CenterICQ: it won't help.

    As long as you don't get your contacts to switch (which is unlikely, since they won't get their contacts to switch), you will still need an AIM account to IM with them. And guess what? That account can be suspended by AOL! Of course, the same is true not only for AIM, but for every other network out there.
  • disgruntled (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spoonyfork (23307) <spoonyfork&gmail,com> on Friday December 10, 2004 @10:13AM (#11050821) Journal
    Perhaps this is related to the recent layoffs at AOL?
  • by Zerbey (15536) * on Friday December 10, 2004 @12:06PM (#11051935) Homepage Journal
    AOL fires a bunch of employees, and later in the week a "glitch" causes a bunch of screen names to stop working.

    Upset former employee's parting shot maybe... or me being paranoid. (more likely) :)
  • Yahoo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kallahar (227430) <kallahar@quickwired.com> on Friday December 10, 2004 @12:46PM (#11052324) Homepage
    Yahoo also did this a while back, I had an existing account (kallahar) but at some point it stopped working. No errors, no warnings, just "invalid username". I couldn't even recreate it or add a new number at the end.

    Turns out they ban any username with the word "allah" in it, which my name coincidentally has.

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