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AOL Opens Up the AIM Instant Messaging Network 209

Posted by Zonk
from the horse-of-a-different-color dept.
AVIDJockey writes "In a pleasantly surprising move, AOL has changed its tune when it comes to third-party access to the company's chat network. America Online has recently launched a service called OpenAIM 2.0, which provides open, uninhibited access to services like Meebo, or all-in-one IM clients like Pidgin, allowing them to freely and easily use the AIM instant messaging network. 'At the moment, multi-platform IM desktop clients like Pidgin or Adium (the popular Mac client) generally rely on hacking and reverse engineering access to chat networks run by AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and others. Not only is that bad for developers since it means more work, it also means that such clients often can't use all the features of a particular network.'"
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AOL Opens Up the AIM Instant Messaging Network

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  • And that's not all! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Timex (11710) * <smithadmin@nOsPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:45PM (#22656436) Journal
    It might be my imagination, but GTalk (through the GMail interface) allows one to open an AIM connection. I wonder if it's related to this?
    • by emj (15659)
      Well atleast you can tie your gtalk account to AIM [google.com] so all your AIM contacts shows up there, I don't have any AIM contacts so I don't know if it works. But somtimes get errors telling me AIM isn't working, so I guess it should work..
      • by peragrin (659227)
        the only annoying part about aim integration into gmail other than having to have an account at both places, is that when I am using adium, and log into gmail I get an IM saying I am logged in twice.

        Other than that it works very well. need to try out audio through it though.
    • by Dragonslicer (991472) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:33PM (#22658220)

      It might be my imagination, but GTalk (through the GMail interface) allows one to open an AIM connection. I wonder if it's related to this?
      I would guess that it's probably more related to AOL starting a Jabber server for AIM.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      There's also an experimental Jabber server for AIM, I think the GMail interface has to do more with that than with this.

      For more information, see http://wiki.jabber.org/index.php/AOL_Alpha [jabber.org] . Haven't gotten it to work myself with Pidgin though.

  • Good news. Adium sometimes wouldn't work with iChat when it came to file transfers. Fixing that alone might actually get me using Adium.

    I wonder if this paves the way to Adium working with iChat audio and video conferencing?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by The Ancients (626689)

      Good news. Adium sometimes wouldn't work with iChat when it came to file transfers. Fixing that alone might actually get me using Adium.

      I wonder if this paves the way to Adium working with iChat audio and video conferencing?

      This would be great. I much prefer Adium's interface and functionality to iChat's, but I still have to switch to iChat now and then for video conferencing, which is a pain.

      For Macs there is aMSN [cmq.qc.ca] for video chat for MSN, but no other 3rd party clients come to mind for video on any of the major proprietary chat protocols.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by setagllib (753300)
        Kopete is often overlooked because it's tightly integrated into KDE, but much less so than Windows Live Messenger is tied to Windows, so it deserves mention as a very complete MSN/WinLive client.
      • by benbean (8595)
        Skype works pretty well for cross-platform Video and Audio conferencing. Windows, Mac and Linux, and the Mac client feels like a proper Mac app, not just a cheap Windows port.
    • by nekura (600099)
      I was interested in this too, unfortunately, it's probably not going to happen due to the license (link [cocoaforge.com]).
  • by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:53PM (#22656538) Journal
    This is good for business!

    Companies think that lock-in is good for business. And sure, it IS when you're dealing with tangible goods. But when dealing with interoperability concerns with software ... well, if something is more useful, it will be more used! (in theory, anyways)

    At least AOL finally figured this out. I'm waiting for microsoft and apple (for all their software) to get a clue ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by obeythefist (719316)
      It's not good for business. It's good for the user. But the AIM model relies on advertising revenue from the AIM client. If you encourage people to use something other than your spammy ad-ridden client, you get less ad clicks and less revenue.
      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        if you let the savvy users run multi-network clients, your less savvy users won't jump ship when their friends stop using the service.

        nobody wants to have several chat programs running at once, and it's easier to keep your noobs herded into profitable areas when they aren't being encouraged by their friends to switch services.
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:54PM (#22656550)
    I'm guessing I'll be modded down for saying this, but this seems more like they're trying to remain relevant by hopping on the "Open" bandwagon a little too late in the game. XMPP was the response to the closed nature of all of these IM networks, and not surprisingly, Google chose that very protocol for Google Talk. They even provided instructions on how to connect using clients _other_ than Google Talk.

    AOL, on the other hand has always been quite hostile toward projects that made use of their network (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madster). Why would anyone want to develop for them now, just because they've stuck "Open" on AIM hoping that OSS developers take care of their coding for them?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bem (1977)
      Indeed, and I just spent this morning setting up an internal IM server for my employer, using the mysql database they use for their intranet server as the authentication (yay for one password) and it talks to googletalk just fine and dandy.

      The hardest part was finding a package with the feature set I wanted (um, mysql authentication)

      Now our employees can chat with each other in real time (double-secure... SSL connections and not going offsite) or with customers (still SSL, but have to trust their server).

      If
      • by vsync64 (155958)

        Does Google support other XMPP servers tying into their network now? I remember when it came out they didn't, worried about spam and such I guess. If they allow that now that would be awesome, and I would immediately set up my own server and join their network.

        Jabber supports end-to-end encryption out of the box, right? Google is Big Brother, after all...

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by stickystyle (799509)
          Yes, other servers can connect to google. And yes there is support in the XMPP protocol for encryption (SSL) from the client to the server, and then from source to the destination server.
          • by vsync64 (155958)
            Good info. But that doesn't sound "end-to-end" to me. "End-to-end" means client A encrypts it so only client B can read it.
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by transwarp (900569)
              In Jabber, you can used both Off-The-Record encryption, and GPG, depending on what the client supports. There's also a much newer standard for encrypted sessions, but I don't know if it has any support yet. http://www.xmpp.org/extensions/ [xmpp.org] XEP-0116 and XEP-0200 are related to the new one.
      • by lintux (125434)
        > If AOL was serious, they would just implement a Jabber gateway on their end.

        Uhm, have you checked one of the related links in this article? They introduced XMPP access just a month or two ago, but had some scalability issues. I hope they'll be able to resolve those soon...
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

      by shorti9 (307602) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @08:25PM (#22657664)
      FWIW, Aimster never had any problems with AOL*. We've had many more problems with libfaim/libpurple, which are the open source implementations of OSCAR. In particular, AOL has engaged an authentication arms race, repeatedly making it harder to legally log in to AIM. The newest technique (https submission) looked like it was pretty much the death knell for independent OSCAR implementations. It's really difficult to RE, and allowed them freedom to use bigger, more trademarkable shared secrets. (Copyright has exceptions for compatibility purposes; trademark, not so much)

      AOL has always had at least a partial open network, in the form of TOC. Surprisingly, they have kept it open for all these years, despite the early pessimism of many people (myself chief among them). This latest opening is an interesting move, and probably hints at new market realities in IM. It's good to see the space changing, especially in a continuing push towards openness.

      Sadly, it means that all my contract work for reverse engineering OSCAR (etc) just dried up =)

      * Aimster didn't actually use AOL for anything; they just had a data extracting proxy that sat between the user and the IM network, so they could show presence info in their custom UI. I actually worked there for a short while, and extended that proxy to support ICQ, amongst other things. (It was a terribly-run company, which is why I quit after only a few months. If they _had_ used AIM for the file transfers, as I was suggesting, they likely wouldn't have had nearly the legal trouble they did. And, any case against them would also amount to an equal case against AOL, which makes for an interesting set of motivations...)
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @08:45PM (#22657848) Homepage
      I don't know if it's too late. AIM still has TONS of users. It's not clear to me how AOL intends to make money from AIM if people are using other clients without embedded ads, but I guess I don't really care either.
      • by westlake (615356)
        It's not clear to me how AOL intends to make money from AIM if people are using other clients without adds.

        Perhaps because it is far more worried about migration to a fully integrated Windows Live! and Yahoo! IM client.

      • by kabloom (755503)

        It's not clear to me how AOL intends to make money from AIM if people are using other clients without embedded ads, but I guess I don't really care either.

        Hence the revenue-sharing agreement. They're hoping that by offering to pay the developers for displaying AOL's ads, these clients will actually make display AOL's ads. AOL will then make money off the portion (majority) of the ad revenue that they're not giving to the developers of the clients. Still, an open source product like Gaim isn't going to bite.

    • I'm guessing I'll be modded down for saying this, but this seems more like they're trying to remain relevant by hopping on the "Open" bandwagon a little too late in the game.

      Late in the game implies they're falling behind, but right now AIM has the biggest market share of any of the big ones. Rather, I see this as a mutual assured destruction move. Basically Microsoft and Yahoo teamed up to try to create a walled garden together that they could both use to lock-in users. AOL decided to interoperate with XMPP and Google, basically adding Google and all the privately run Jabber servers to their share of the market. That means they no longer can win big and charge a toll on IM u

      • by Bert64 (520050)
        You can use end to end encryption with google's service, just not with their client...
        Search for off the record messaging, adium has it built in and there are plugins for other clients.
  • Huh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak (669689)
    I thought the money was in advertising, not in the network.
    If they explicitly open up the network to 3rd party clients, what happens to their ad revenue?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by elzurawka (671029) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:58PM (#22656604)
      "AOL is going even further, offering such services the option to run AOL-served advertisements as part of a revenue sharing plan. So far, AOL hasn't given too many details on the advertising tie-in, but more details will be released next month." RTA So, pidgin can now add ad's to the bottom, and share the profits with AOL.
      • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @08:12PM (#22657490) Journal
        I did RTFA, but I'm not limiting my imagination to a bunch of companies tying their networks together to make more money. And unless something changed, Pidgin is GPL... meaning anyone can grab the source and cut out the code that loads advertisements.

        Now that the network is completely open, protocols and all, the only reason anyone would use an ad-laden client is from inertia & familiarity, not because those clients are 'better'.
        • by benbean (8595)
          Never underestimate the power of inertia and familiarity. I present to you exhibit A - Microsoft Windows.
    • by Hatta (162192)
      If all their customers move to an open network(jabber, gtalk) because of the freedom and convenience it provides, what happens to their ad revenue?
      • by Bert64 (520050)
        Your assuming third party clients will simply ignore out of band ads...
        But how will they block ads which are delivered as part of the message stream? Like, each time you open a new chat with someone, an ad shows up at the start of it.
    • by burndive (855848)
      All of us, who know what we're doing can use Pidgin, and everyone else will download the official client, which will show them ads.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by geminidomino (614729) *
        I've found some problems in pidgin... namely, messages like to disappear into the ether(net?) with no indication whatsoever...

        It can make for interesting conversations.
    • The value of a network is proportional to the size of it, so the more users a network has, the more new users will sign up. Even if 90% of those new users don't use AOL's ad-riddled client (and of course most still will, since it's ``official''), they'll still experience growth.
      Of course, whether it's enough growth to pay for the servers is another question, but presumably someone at AOL has done the math.
    • I thought the money was in advertising, not in the network.

      I don't know much about advertising - i just know that I prefer MSN's animated emoticons that you can show off to your friends.
    • by Bert64 (520050)
      The same way that web based ads still make revenue, despite third party ad blockers.
      The majority of clueless users will quite happily continue using an ad-ridden client and not think twice about it..
      The tech savvy users who don't want to see the ads will find ways to get rid of them anyway, but are more likely to defect and take their clueless friends with them if it becomes a lot of hassle to block the ads.
  • Sounds like (Score:4, Insightful)

    by renegadesx (977007) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:54PM (#22656562)
    They are desperate to not lose any more market share to Yahoo, MSN and Google Talk (among others). Hopefully this will keep pressure on the others to open up their networks (except MSN of course) and embrace the fact that having many clients is too much hassle for people and all-in-ones make more sense

    As a Pidgin user I welcome this move.
    • They are desperate to not lose any more market share to Yahoo, MSN and Google Talk (among others).
      Gotta be honest here, I didn't know Google Talk had any "market share". I really don't see it widly used.
    • As a fellow Pidgin user, I'm having trouble imagining a reason why this is good news for Pidgin users. Maybe someone could tell me why this is good for Pidgin users other than we can hope compatibly will be (almost) perfect?
    • by dbcad7 (771464)
      You know what's interesting, is that at one time ICQ was the top dog in instant messengers.. now they are (among others)

      Obviously the billions of free disks in the mail that AOL sent out, got AIM up there in usage.. but I was a long time ICQ user and original Hotmail user.. after Hotmail switched to MS, and they tied in MSN Messenger with hotmail, that's what led me to switch to MSN.. all my family members also switched, and we have been there ever since.. That's the real difficulty of it all.. let's say A

  • Restrictions (Score:5, Informative)

    by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:58PM (#22656610) Homepage
    From the FAQ [aol.com]:

    Are there any restrictions on what I can build?

    We tried to make the Open AIM Program as restriction-free and flexible as possible. But in order to help protect our network and users, certain rules apply.

    • We ask that you incorporate two value-added features of the AIM service into your application. The full list that you can pick from is listed in our Additional Feature Requirements webpage.
    • Although we have removed many restrictions on usage and development, we still do not permit developers to build Open AIM applications that are interoperable with other IM networks. (Multi-headed applications are now allowed). Please refer to the Developers License Agreement for additional details.
    • Required features (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:02PM (#22656658) Homepage

      Can GPL-compatible software (or really any kind of open-source software) be written, given these restrictions?

      Open AIM Additional Feature Requirements

      Welcome to Open AIM! If you intend to develop and distribute an AIM Custom Client (including mobile versions) or Web AIM Developer Application, you must pick 2 of the 5 options listed below and incorporate them into your Developer Applications. These options include

      • Advertising
      • Buddy Info
      • Expressions and Buddy Icons
      • AIM Start Page
      • AIM Toolbar

      Just to be clear, these requirements don't apply to Plugins, Bots or the use of the Presence Indicators. Please note that if your application exceeds 100,000 peak simultaneous users, you must implement Advertising as described below as one of your two options.

      Not sure what will work best for your application? Don't worry. You can always change your selections to suit your needs as you grow.

      This is starting to look as if now that everyone knows the OSCAR protocol anyway, AOL is trying to make a power grab under the guise of openness...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Well, considering libpurple (Pidgin, Adium, and Meebo) has a user base somewhere around a fuckton, they'd have to put the ads in if they wanted to used the "blessed" protocol
        • by edmicman (830206)
          Or just do Buddy Icons and Buddy Info, which as far as I can tell they already do?
          • Quoth the GGP:

            Please note that if your application exceeds 100,000 peak simultaneous users, you must implement Advertising as described below as one of your two options.
      • Re:Required features (Score:5, Informative)

        by mmcuh (1088773) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:08PM (#22656734)

        Can GPL-compatible software (or really any kind of open-source software) be written, given these restrictions?
        No.
      • Re:Required features (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gparent (1242548) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:09PM (#22656752)
        This is really not useful at all, then. Any decent application will have 100,000 users at a time, so this means we're getting advertising in Pidgin if they decide to implement it (I hope not). Self-Compile with stripped advertising, anyone?
      • Why not? There's no reason you can't let other people look at the source, and submit patches, while still implementing those restrictions.

        As for the GPL specifically, I'd have to reread the GPL, but I don't see why it couldn't work. Besides, even if it isn't compatible with the GPL... not like it's the only open-source license out there. Not being GPL-compatible doesn't mean you can't open-source it. Sorry, I know you did say "any kind of open-source software", it's just kind of a nerve for me... damn ope

      • Re:Required features (Score:5, Informative)

        by jay-be-em (664602) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:49PM (#22658334) Homepage
        Ugh. That reminds me. The other day at work I installed aol's aim client because a chat room had been set up to communicate while we went through some procedures (I usually just use gmail for chat). Suddenly Firefox's home page had been changed to aol.com, I had a hideous toolbar and some crappy chat bots added in my gmail chat list. Christ. Fuck this company.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by MaizeMan (1076255)
      Jeez. I was actually hopeful there for a sec. Thanks for pointing out this release is less (far less) than it appears.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bkaul01 (619795)
      I wonder how they define "multi-headed applications"

      In any case, third-party developers such as Cerulean Studios (Trillian) already apparently know the OSCAR protocol well enough to have incorporated additional functionality such as SecureIM (encrypted messages) that aren't included in standard AIM clients. This seems more geared towards encabling people to develop small-time add-ons or perhaps bloated adware clients than to actually increasing the quality of mainstream clients.

      • by jonbryce (703250)
        Does implementing SecureIM need that much knowledge of protocals? Surely you just encrypt the message and IM it over the network like any other message?
    • From the FAQ:
      http://dev.aol.com/aim/faqs [aol.com]

      * Although we have removed many restrictions on usage and development, we still do not permit developers to build Open AIM applications that are interoperable with other IM networks. (Multi-headed applications are now allowed). Please refer to the Developers License Agreement for additional details.

      From the main page:
      http://dev.aol.com/aim [aol.com]

      Development of AIM-Enabled, Multi-IM Protocol Clients
      * AOL now allows multiheaded clients to access the AIM network

      OK, so I'm confused. What's the difference between a permitted "multi-headed client" and a prohibited "multi-headed application"?

      They can't even seem to get their own promotional copy down right.

      • Re:Restrictions (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:39PM (#22657118) Journal
        It seems poorly worded, but I think they do not want to allow bridging. For example, Microsoft could create a server-side bridge to AIM and put a box in the next version of MSNM for people to enter their AIM IDs. They would then see AIM users as MSN users, stop using the AIM client, and forget about the AOL brand. Currently, AIM is bridged with GTalk, and I presume AOL get a fair amount of money from Google because of it. I suspect that AOL have realised that IM standardisation is inevitable and that they can make more money selling their customers to other IM networks in the short-term, before they become just another IM provider in the same way that they are an email and web hosting provider.

        Allowing people to connect to the network using other clients helps this strategy, since it means more people will actively use the network and they can charge higher fees for the bridges to GTalk, MSN, Y!IM and so on. Allowing people to build bridges with this would completely destroy their new business model.

      • It says multi headed applications 'are now allowed', not 'are not allowed'. I think that means that you can use a client that can operate over multiple networks, but only if it can only use one at a time.
      • by jonbryce (703250)
        It means that you can have a program that logs into multiple networks and lets you use all your accounts from the same program, but you have a program that lets you IM from an AIM account to an MSN account.

        To compare it with the cell phone world, you would be allowed to have a phone that takes SIM cards for O2, Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Three, and you could have five different phone numbers - one for each of the networks. What you can't do is have something that lets people phone an Orange telephone n
    • This paragaph confuses me:

      Although we have removed many restrictions on usage and development, we still do not permit developers to build Open AIM applications that are interoperable with other IM networks. (Multi-headed applications are now allowed). Please refer to the Developers License Agreement for additional details.

      Does Pidgin fall under "do not permit developers to build Open AIM applications that are interoperable with other IM networks" or "Multi-headed applications are now allowed"?

      • Multi-headed. What isn't allowed is logging in on Aim, and messaging MSN, ICQ, Jabber, etc. clients with your AIM account.
  • Last night I fired up Adium and there was a new AIM bots entry with another one of their stupid bots.

    So I don't care if the network is open. They have no provision for getting rid of these damn things permanently. I even tried logging on to the web dashboard thing and looking there. So forget 'em.

    I only have an AIM account because of something I had on Netscape.com way back when for I forget why; it just never got deleted. I don't know anyone who only has AIM, so we'll all cope just fine without th

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I've never gotten a message from their own AIM bots, and in Kopete, as in every single other IM client I've used, it's possible to simply collapse groups (and forget about them).

      So what, exactly, is the problem? (Or is there something I'm missing?)
  • by keytoe (91531) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:37PM (#22657088) Homepage
    From the Wired blog post:

    AOL's recently launched OpenAIM 2.0 provides open, uninhibited access
    From the Open AIM page:

    you must pick 2 of the 5 options listed below and incorporate them into your Developer Applications. These options include
    • Advertising
    • Buddy Info
    • Expressions and Buddy Icons
    • AIM Start Page
    • AIM Toolbar
    Just to be clear, these requirements don't apply to Plugins, Bots or the use of the Presence Indicators. Please note that if your application exceeds 100,000 peak simultaneous users, you must implement Advertising as described below as one of your two options.
    I think I have a different definition of 'open, uninhibited access' than Wired.
  • I for one will display the required advertisements from a menu item selected by the user. It's not my fault that users don't click it.
  • Can anyone see whether the voice & video protocols are documented. I couldn't see anything at first glance.
    • by wwahammy (765566)
      UPnP wouldn't hurt either. To this day, I can't get video to work on AIM no matter what I do.
  • "joins GTalk (Google's chat network) in offering unfettered access to all of the network's features to third-party applications and services."

    Clearly whoever wrote that article hasn't looked at http://www.google.com/talk/otherclients.html [google.com]. Specifically the "Voice calls to other Google Talk users" column.

    Honestly, I'm not sure they haven't documented the protocol recently.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Azh Nazg (826118)
      Sure, they've documented the voice protocol used; said protocol is called Jingle, and specs are available from the XMPP Council, as XEP-0166. In fact, Google submitted Jingle as a standard fairly soon after GTalk came out. Not their fault that not many clients bothered to use libjingle (a library implementing Jingle, under the BSD license, written by Google).
    • Google needs to put more development time into Gtalk. (the stand alone app). The first thing they can do is add this open AIM support so i can dump trillian. Although dam it, i still use my old icq number since old friends are still on it.
      • Google needs to put more development time into Gtalk. (the stand alone app). The first thing they can do is add this open AIM support so i can dump trillian.

        I'm pretty sure AOL has federated their server so any GTalk account user can send messages using their GTalk account to AIM users. So that pretty much solves your problem.

        Although dam it, i still use my old icq number since old friends are still on it.

        Actually I think it works with ICQ as well, since AIM and ICQ accounts can message each other now too.

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