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AIM Now (Mostly) Open To Developers 187

Posted by Hemos
gregsblog writes "Today is a historic day at AOL as we announced a software development kit for AOL Instant Messenger. Open AIM will empower you, as the developer, to write custom clients and plugins. For now, lets concentrate on the Open AIM SDK and get into what it can do for you. First, the development kit is written using COM, so plugins and custom clients can be written for Windows in languages like C++, VB, C#, and eventually J-Script. In the near future we will have solutions for LINUX, MAC and Windows Mobile devices. Why is this important? We now have a solution to provide all AIM users and consumers to build their own IM clients and to extend the features of Triton via plugins. Of course all of this is free of charge. How do I get started? Well my team has provided a quick start guide, and tutorials, in addition to numerous coding examples, from the simple to the complex. Our examples are in C++ and C#. What are the limitations? Basically anything goes, with the exception of writing multi-headed clients."
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AIM Now (Mostly) Open To Developers

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  • Without advertising, how do they reach step 3?
  • by meringuoid (568297) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:08AM (#14857097)
    ... I mean, we've only been using Gaim for about five years now...
  • GAIM (Score:3, Informative)

    by ROBOKATZ (211768) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:09AM (#14857100)
    GAIM [sourceforge.net] allows you to write plugins in a variet of languages including python and C++ (and anything else that can link to dynamic libraries). Of course, I don't really see a massive need for IM plugins. All this announcement means is that we will see a million COM host AIM clients with crappy UIs.
  • MAC? (Score:5, Funny)

    by matt4077 (581118) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:11AM (#14857103) Homepage
    I can interface with it on the hardware level? Cool...
    • Re:MAC? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Frank Palermo (846883)
      Apart from all the MAC/Mac jokes, I'm wondering what significance (if any) this has for the future of the AIM client on Mac OS X. The last time the official AIM client for Mac was updated was (according to its download [aim.com] page) on February 18, 2004, i.e. over two years ago. Considering that most people who want to develop an AIM client for the Mac have already done so by using the GAIM core libraries (Adium X being one chief example), what exactly is making an SDK with a small pile of licensing restrictions (y
      • Re:MAC? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Helios1182 (629010)
        I don't know anyone that uses the AOL client on OS X. Most use iChat, and some use AdiumX. I stick to iChat since I don't use any advanced features and it integrates into the address book and email apps nicely.
      • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot DOT kadin AT xoxy DOT net> on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:05AM (#14857751) Homepage Journal
        I think that iChat is the "official" AIM client on Mac OS X. Back when it first came out, there was much hoopla about Apple having reached some sort of agreement with AOL, which I assume probably involved a gym bag stuffed with cash or a horse's head in somebody's waterbed, that allowed them to make a non-AOL but still completely interoperable client.

        You'll notice that unlike Gaim, and like the official AIM client, iChat does all the file transfer and direct connect stuff without problems (almost all the time, so basically in the same situations that the AIM program would).

        I think this is why AOL's Mac OS X efforts have been effectively suspended -- Apple is doing it for them.

        And frankly, given what a pile of turds the AOL client always was, I'm quite happy that they leave it this way.
        • The official AIM client can read out incoming IMs using text-to-speech. Has been able to since version, I dunno, 2.something I think. iChat can't and never has been able to. That's the "killer feature" for me. (So happens that Adium developers added in that feature a few releases ago, so now I'm using Adium. But just wanted to point out that iChat isn't the end-all-be-all of AIM clients on Mac.)
          • This is true, however you can get a plugin for $8 USD that does this.

            It's called iChatter, and it does a nice job of translating acronyms back to phrases using a customizable dictionary, etc. (So you can program "LOL" to be spoken as "ha ha" or anything else you want.)

            http://www.ecamm.com/mac/ichatter/ [ecamm.com]

            I can't personally vouch for it, but it's out there. I use Adium (or AdiumX, I'm not clear on what it's 'official' name is) as my day-to-day client, and iChat for file transfers and on the very few occasions I
            • Not paying $8 to replace something that I can get for free, either from the official Mac client or from the leading open source Mac client. No offense to whoever wrote iChatter, but I hope Apple sees the light and builds this feature in, making it obsolete.

              If it weren't for that one killer feature, I'd definitely switch to iChat, no questions asked.
  • by Pocket PC Addict (747016) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:13AM (#14857112) Homepage
    Maybe they'll offer AIM certifications. Like you could be an CACC... Certified AIM coder and configurer. They'll offer classes for $1200 a pop and provide stats on what the average CACCs make each and every year.
  • MAC (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:14AM (#14857116)

    In the near future we will have solutions for LINUX, MAC and Windows Mobile devices.

    Wow. That is really cool that they are planning to embed AIM capabilities directly into the Media Access Control sublayer. That should make AIM even more ubiquitous. It's a shame they have no plans to get this AIM SDK up and running on Mac OS X, though.

    BTW, what does "LINUX" stand for? I've never heard of it.

  • by ihuntrocks (870257) <ihuntrocks&gmail,com> on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:17AM (#14857131)
    The overall effectiveness of this will of course be determined by the users who are writing their own clients/plugins. Your mileage may vary. However, I do see this as a positive step forward, if only in an academic sense. With a major company making such an effort to have their software available for community modification, with tutorials and examples, I'd have to say that this is a nice step away from the monoculture software development. Even if you can't get anything truly useful out of it, it is interesting to take a look at what is offered and see what you might be able to learn from it. Never hurts to experiment.
    • Just for context, this may feel small from the outside (and perhaps it is), but it is directionally indicative of a big cultural shift from AOL. The one thing to keep in mind is that this is NOT about IM network interop - its about opening the AIM network up for "customization". I expect I'm not the only AOL employee that discusses this further on his/her blog: graphicallyspeaking so (some) more info there...
  • by chill (34294) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:18AM (#14857138) Journal
    "Developers are not permitted to build Custom Clients that are multi-headed or interoperable with any other IM network."

    The definition of "almost, but not quite totally useless" seems more appropriate.

      -Charles
    • Basically anything goes, with the exception of writing multi-headed clients.

      Which I read as "Writing spam-bomb plugins that piss off our entire user base is perfectly fine, but to hell with interoperability."
  • libgaim (Score:5, Insightful)

    by babbling (952366) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:30AM (#14857197)
    From the Gaim Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]:

    Recently, the Gaim developers have started to separate the core code--which handles things such as network connections and messaging--from the GUI code, which controls how these actions are presented to the user. After the code split is complete, it will be possible to write client programs using a developer's GUI library of choice. The core library produced by the split will be called libgaim; an in-development but stable version of this library is already in use in the Adium, Fire, and Proteus clients as well as the Meebo web-based application.

    So, in other words, AOL are going to have something much more limited than libgaim (AIM protocol only) available in the "near future"? Uhhh... congratulations AOL! Now bugger off, you jerk-burgers!
    • Re:libgaim (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GigsVT (208848) * on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:11AM (#14857406) Journal
      congratulations AOL! Now bugger off, you jerk-burgers!

      You know, they still run the aim servers... for free.

      And they stopped deliberately breaking other clients for the most part.
      • by TrekkieGod (627867)
        You know, they still run the aim servers... for free.

        Yeah. Because they wouldn't lose 100% of their non-aol users the day they started charging for aim. Plenty of instant messaging protocols out there that people can switch too. Right now, no one bothers to look for anything else, but the moment they're told to get their credit card, you can bet they're going to hit google to search for something else. And tell their friends.

        They're not doing this out of the goodness of their heart. Most of us who

      • And they stopped deliberately breaking other clients for the most part.

        That's because it was ineffective and, with the diverted effort, they began falling behind other IM protocols.

        You know, they still run the aim servers... for free.

        Except for all those ads. I'm sure the API will provide an option to omit these ads, too...

        Sorry, but AOL is still evil. Had they done this years ago when everyone was calling for it, maybe this would matter. But we've all moved on already. Too little, way too late.

      • You know, they still run the aim servers... for free.

        In a world with hundreds of free Jabber servers, one free AIM server means dick.

        • In a world with hundreds of free Jabber servers, one free AIM server means dick.

          Yes, but jabber.org goes down.

          Also, just one day, someday, I'd like to be able to successfully transfer a file from gaim using *any* protocol to another user. I've tried and tried and never succeeded. I'm sure that somewhere, someone must have functioning file transfer, but I've never actually observed it with my own eyes. These days, I'm behind one of those damn NAT routers (though I have a SOCKS server running) and still ca
    • Re:libgaim (Score:3, Interesting)

      So, in other words, AOL are going to have something much more limited than libgaim (AIM protocol only) available in the "near future"?

      And legal.

      IIRC anyone who's ever agreed to AIM's click-through license has promised that they won't try to crack the protocol. And it's hard to crack the protocol without running AIM. The only previous open library for AIM was TOC, which is very limited.

      And if you're going to break the AIM client license and reverse-engineer it, then why not as well break the Open AIM license
    • libgaim has been "in development" for years, now. It's not coming any time soon and doesn't appear to be a high priority for the Gaim developers at this moment. That does not mean it's entirely unusable. Third-party projects (e.g., Adium) sometimes excise libgaim from the gaim trunk and use that to support their application. But I wouldn't hold my breath for a libgaim supported by the Gaim developers themselves.
    • Uh.

      1) You're saying "bugger off" to a company that has been providing a solid, reliable, and useful service for free for almost a decade now. "Damn you jerkwads! Your free services disgust me!" They've been offering the TOC protocol, for free to any third-party developer for almost as long as AIM has existed. What the hell more could they do to make you happy? Free blow jobs? (Compare to MSN which is only there to steal mindshare from AIM and doesn't freakin' work anyway, it has maybe a 95% uptime dur
  • by Peter Cooper (660482) on Monday March 06, 2006 @09:47AM (#14857290) Homepage Journal
    We don't need no stinkin' SDKs.. why not officially document and open up the API instead? That way we can call it and do what we want on any platform without having to worry about SDKs.
    • That's what this is. I think you mean "Open the protocol", not the API.
    • Sure. You can speak the straight OSCAR protocol if you want. It's a lot harder than using the SDK - especially if you want to get p2p stuff like file transfer and voice working - but we understand that one size does not fit all.

      So any client that properly identifies itself (i.e. does not claim to be an official AIM client and uses an Open AIM key), and conforms to the AIM Developer EULA, will be allowed to use the AIM network, regardless of whether or not they use our SDK.

      Of course, I recommend using our SD
      • Of course, I recommend using our SDK. It's robust and fast, and is way ahead of libgaim and other libs in terms of functionality.

        Unless one of the following applies:

        1. She's developing for a platform to which AOL has not ported the SDK. Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux x86, and Windows Mobile are not the only popular platforms. What about Nintendo DS homebrew, which just recently acquired the ability to connect to the Internet using its built-in 802.11b hardware?
        2. She's developing software that's intended to
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wow...this is completely assinine. They could have spent the past year by actually making AIM open. The IETF did release XMPP/Jabber as an RFC nearly a year ago. AOL should have dropped this library and added support for server to server XMPP connections. They could also have made client to server connections use XMPP. Not only would that allow them to connect to Google and everyone else, they would have no need to release a library that only the script kiddy next door will use in his new VB botnet controll
  • First Step (Score:2, Funny)

    by dJOEK (66178)
    Is this the first step to a true IM system that is complementary system to email?

    If more IM vendors start opening up (Jabber, my personal favorite, has always been open, ofcourse ;-) ) more developers will integrate IM into their applications. In a few years we should have one dominant protocol, and from then on IM will finally become as transparant as email is now.

    then again i'll be driving with 4 scandily clad girls in my newest lexus besides copacabana beach.

    Still, it's a good fantasy
  • by ursabear (818651) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:06AM (#14857379) Homepage Journal
    I, for one, am very glad they're making steps to opening the API to outside developers.

    But one critical question comes to mind: In the past, AOL has been very picky and fussy about "non-authorized" tools and processes accessing their "IM network infrastructure." Their TOS does not (or, at least, did not) allow anything other than genuine AOL AIM clients to access their infrastructure.

    Does this new development opportunity change the TOS such that non-AOL AIM clients can now access the infrastructure (while remaining within the boundaries of acceptability)? Several companies have banned anything other than genuine AIM clients because of AOL's AIM TOS. Has this changed?
    • Yes. The rules have changed. That is why this is a big deal.

      Any client that properly identifies itself (i.e. does not claim to be an official AIM client and uses an Open AIM key), and conforms to the AIM Developer EULA, will be allowed to use the AIM network, regardless of whether or not they use our SDK.

      Now, the SDK provides A LOT of functionality, including full support for file transfer, image sharing, voice, video, security - things that would take a long time to get working right if you are starting fr
  • Yeah, I know it's early, but AS IF AOL will just allow developers to make their own AIM clients without some kind of fine print somewhere. 5 years ago or so it was battle of the titans on Trillian vs Gaim vs AIM trying to keep open source aim clients off their network, and now they are open arms? I am wary....
  • Not OPEN at all! (Score:5, Informative)

    by capnal (795722) on Monday March 06, 2006 @10:29AM (#14857525) Journal
    From AIM's FAQ:

    Q: Are there any restrictions on what I can build?
    A: We tried to make the Open AIM Program as restriction-free as possible, but in order to help protect our network and users, certain rules apply. We have highlighted some below, but please refer to the Developers License Agreement for details.

            * Developers are not permitted to build Custom Clients that are multi-headed or interoperable with any other IM network.
            * Custom Clients developed for use on a mobile device or via a wireless telecommunications carrier's network and/or wireless services require separate licensing and business agreements with AOL. Any inquiries regarding mobile applications should be sent to AIMCommercial@aol.com.
            * Custom Clients designed for sale to a corporate customer base or to serve a corporate employee base require separate licensing and business agreements with AOL. Any inquiries regarding enterprise use should be sent to AIMCommercial@aol.com.
    • My favorite is: "Custom Clients developed for use on a mobile device or via a wireless telecommunications carrier's network and/or wireless services require separate licensing and business agreements with AOL. Any inquiries regarding mobile applications should be sent to AIMCommercial@aol.com."

      So does that count laptops? And why should it matter whether the internet connection is wired or via a wireless service? What if I'm using a card in my PC to connect to Verizon's wireless internet service? And what, f
      • I think this restriction is designed to target the companies making mobile phones, PDAs (smartphones etc) and the like.
        Unless you add specific functionality related to mobile phones or wireless networks, they probobly wont have problems with anyone building a client running on a normal windows machine.
        Of course IANAL etc etc etc
    • No, its Open, just proprietary and certainly not Free as in the Freedom to copy, redistribute, modify, and sell.

      There's a reason so many people feel so passionate about Free Software [fsf.org]. We're not just a bunch of raving lunatics foaming at the mouth. If we are, corporations like AOL made us this way. I mean just try to deal with them, or Microsoft or Adobe or Apple or ...

      They're "Open", even compliant with the OSI on some levels, and they give you stuff for free, but there's always those hidden costs.
    • Developers are not permitted to build Custom Clients that are multi-headed or interoperable with any other IM network.

      Do you suppose IRC counts as an "IM network"?

      Why do I ask? No reason...
  • AIM bots (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cejones (574416)
    Here come the AIM bots.
  • by RhettLivingston (544140) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:15AM (#14857845)
    With the limitations imposed by the license, there doesn't seem to be much value to this. Thinking out of the box though, perhaps it is a setup for new lawsuits against the other clients cracking into the network. By opening up, even to this limited extent, they may be countering some of the arguments anticipated where other clients are claiming that AOL left them no viable alternative other than reverse engineering the protocols and cracking in.
  • Don't forget to read the developer terms carefully. Under section 4 there's this nifty little bit there at the end (clause viii):

    (viii) incorporates any Publicly Available Software, in whole or in part, in a manner that may subject the Tools or the AOL Services, in whole or in part, to all or part of the license obligations of any Publicly Available Software. As used herein, the term "Publicly Available Software" means any software that contains, or is derived in any manner (in whole or in part) from, any

  • ... and millions of virus writers rejoiced.
  • Ok so this is a wrapper for the AIM Client...

    How is this 'Open' or even beneficial. You could write a wrapper around the exising AIM Client and strip or add features as you wanted, just not with AOLs blessing.

    IE is more 'open' than this, as you can at least write an HTML rendering applicaiton around the system DLLs, and not have to license crap, or 'conform' to not integrating with other services.

    Give me a freaking break. Everyone here that thinks AOL has done something good, needs to be slapped up side the
  • I just did a reinstall of Windows XP and held off installing AIM for a few weeks. As soon as I installed AIM, I realized it was the new Triton Beta...and I couldn't log into my own SN, and it seemed to slow my system down. Way to go AOL! I got the older version and it works fine though.

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