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America Online

AOL To Open AIM Protocol? 213

Vintage was the first person to write with the word from Betanews that AOL will be opening their Instant Messenger Protocol up. The comment from Betanews is that this may be part of an attempt to appease the FTC in regards to the AOL-TimeWarner merger.
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AOL To Open AIM Protocol?

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  • I don't see how it could be illegal. AOL's policy is that only their own client programs are allowed to connect to their own servers. The OSCAR protocol they use is proprietary and undocumented, and misuse of it (such as would undoubtedly occur during development and testing of a competing client) could cause problems for AOL's servers. On top of that, AIM is paid for by banner advertisements, which competing clients won't show.

    If I set up a server that uses a proprietary protocol (think trade secret here), what gives you the right to connect to my server with your program?


  • Actually they're developed by different departments that don't share any of their information with each other. I seem to remember reading that the team that develops the America Online client for Mac OS has trouble getting code from the AOL/Win team and from the AIM teams.


  • TiK, the client of which you speak is available at sourceforge []
    It works well. I've been playing with gabber, a gtk jabber client, thats pretty cool too.
  • I was an ICQ junkie for years, ICQ allows you to block people from adding you as a contact, you can be invisible, etc... But I started Using AIM so i could talk to family and friends who used AOL. SO it was a convienience thing to talk to my mom and sister. As AIM worked better behind all of the firewalls my friends and I have we kinda used it more and more.

    Now AIM is basically "Online Stalking in can". You cant prevent anyone from seeing if you're on unless you use a different screen name to stalk them back. ICQ provides a better service for such things. BUT ICQ gets continually bigger and bloated and just really pisses me off, Especially when the features i like (privacy etc) cause me to wait 3 weeks after a format or crash to add contacts and get re authorized. So its a trade off. Privacy for convienience. But Ill take it. The thing i would like to see implemented into AIM and the OpenAIM is password encryption. I think that TOC is clear text, prolly oscar also. Privacy doesn't mean all that much to me as far as messaging clients go, other than password encryption, or maybe 2 way encrypted file transfers. say you're sending a hot steamy love letter to someone and your netadmin ( possibly me ) used a really nice sniffer and captures all the packets and assembles them... blah blah i know e can all dream for total encryption

    I like AIM better because of the way i use it. ICQ is nicer some times but behind a firewall, EVEN with the newer versions... It is still a shitload slower than AIM. and it still wont talk to AOL users.

  • we'll be able to figure out how to get rid of those near constant "Clippy of the Internet" "Sign up for AOL Messaging Today!" ads that pop up when running certain versions of Netscape?
  • by elegant7x ( 142766 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @03:07PM (#999552)
    ICQ has got to be one of the worst put together pieces of software in general use. On a lot of people's machines it takes longer to load ICQ then it does to boot windows. What the hell is taking so long?

    The interface is just terrible, here's just one example: If you want to do an operation on a user name, you pull up a menu. In most windows programs, using the right mouse button causes a context menu. But not in ICQ. In ICQ you can switch it. Clicking on the other mouse button causes I dialog box asking if you want to switch them (complete with a big bitmap of a mouse).

    What the hell is that?? If there's only one single click operation why not just make **BOTH** mouse buttons do it? Instead of having the other one pull up the stupid "would you like to switch mouse buttons" dialog???

    The whole thing is chunky, the interface sucks ass... it's just bad software.

    Amber Yuan 2k A.D
  • It's Episode 1F14: Homer Loves Flanders.

    There is some more info on the episode on The Simpsons Archive []

    i've looked at love from both sides now. from win and lose, and still somehow...

  • I believe actually, TOC was the protocol that commonly changed, and OSCAR has stayed pretty much constant, the official aim clients use oscar and don't require changes very often.
    Anyways, OSCAR has been reverse-engineered, see [] for details. This is libfaim, which gaim uses if you use oscar rather than toc (./configure --enable-oscar)
  • Here [] is the page announcing the proposal, with links to the proposal itself [] (a formal Internet Draft and this diagram [] showing the client/server and server/server architecture.
  • I was thinking of writing a bot in AppleScript for the Mac that would play games with people. But, I've got other projects to work on, I don't know AppleScript well enough, and I'd have to handle state myself (somebody IMs me, I read a file to see if they've IM'd me before and what we'd been doing, I IM them back and write the new info back to the file, then exit). Could be fun to write a MUD this way, although I'd start simple.


  • You hit the nail on the head: "placate the feds..."

    This is just a temporary appeasement by AOL to deflect scrutiny until the merger goes through. "Opening" the protocol isn't functionally any different than having everyone reverse engineer it. Just because it's "open" doesn't mean they can't or won't start mutating it again every 3 days once the merger goes through. My money is on a rapid return to this anti-competitive practice the instant the merger is complete.

    Opening it up permanently is WAY too forward-thinking for AOL/TW; I think companies that size are prevented by law from making any decision that sacrifices present monopoly for long-term viability. They're only allowed to consider the current quarter, I think that's an SEC regulation.

  • From reading many of these postings, it seems as if many people aren't aware that TiK is again under active development over at []
    The current release is 0.87.

    Also, regarding the ICQ protocol, you can now login with some aim clients (I've personally verified TiK and heard that Gaim worked, too.) Just type in your UIN and password. I have reason to believe that the release of the "aim" protocol will, consequently, contain information for ICQ, as well. I just hope this release will actually occur. . .
  • Actually, if you create and upload the content yourself (as well you should), you can avoid the ads, while having more control over the design of the web page.
  • Don't you mean that they'll integrate the client with the next release of Windows?
    No. I meant IE. It doesn't matter. Since IE is integrated into Windows, integrating MS-IM into IE will indirectly integrate it into Windows. But more importantly, even if the company is split, the Apps division will use its dominance of the browser market to dominate the IM market. Networking effects don't just apply to operating systems, they also apply to middleware (such as IE) and even applications (such as Office).
  • Sure, Jesse Berst ranted about it. AOL keeping it closed stops Microsoft from getting to use AOL's capital investments for free, and Microsoft (through ads) pays Jesse Berst's salary.

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • Just a client that would sign on as yourself or an ID you own. For example, a coworker wrote one that he would run when not at his desk. Any messages would be mailed to his pager. Since our org uses email address as the unique ID for our IM system, the next logical step is to encode the reply-to so that you can converse over the IM system w/ your 2-way pager!

    Not much time for this thee's a shame. Should n't take to long either...
  • A lot of exciting things are happening on the jabber front. As I type this, developers are finishing up a proposal to the ITEF to make Jabber a standard. You can check it out at [] Also check out [] (general site), [] (for businesses), and [] (for end-users).
  • AOL has submitted it's IMX draft to the IETF and it is available on the Internet at [].

  • At work, we started using some Lotus peice of shit, "Sametime". (Our vp used to work for Lotus, what a coincidence!)

    It won't let me log in, despite the fact that my account and password are correct. I can't log in as myself, or as any one of three new accounts we created just for kicks, or as guest. It's just fucked, and they (Lotus support) haven't figured it out yet. It's been three weeks now. What gets me is we PAID for this - while all the free ones out there work just fine. (okay, so they don't offer the security Sametime does. . . some security, it's so secure, even valid users can't get in.)

    If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is!
  • In AIM, if you click on (either file or edit, it's been too long...) and go into the preferences, under connection (again, I think) you'll find a box that says "load on startup". It's somewhere in there, I promise. You can kill it by unchecking that box.
  • I wouldn't even begin to characterize a product or service as holding a monopoly unless they were able to begin benefiting from "network effects", which clearly hasn't happened in the IM space yet. For any player.

    Regardless of marketshare.

    If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is!
  • I thought AOL did own icq?
  • Jabber [] - open source messaging. No doubt somebody else is posting this as I type, so sorry if it's redundant :)
  • Now I can remove the auto-smiley faces, fix the (incredibly bad) text handling, turn the volume down, and prevent AIM from switching me out of a full-screen game.

    If you can't do it right, let someone else do it for you.
  • Correct. TOC doesnt allow most of the features as OSCAR. They did, in recent versions, implement password changing, screen name reformatting, file receive, and it looks like the skeleton of sending files. You can also send a file if an OSCAR user sends you a request for a file. Cheers.

  • I mean does anyone really use this chat stuff, besides horny 14 year-olds, 45 year-old pedophiles, and cops pretending to be Natalie Portman?
  • ...that after the AIM protocol is opened, that AOL will suddenly be flooded with clueless newbies?
  • Gaim actually uses OSCAR; if my history is correct, a client called faim (free aim) reverse engineered the protocol, and then made libfaim for use by other clients. gaim uses libfaim.
  • But the vast majority of the OSCAR AIM protocol was already made available through reverse engineering. I don't see how this will make any real difference.
  • There is actually an AIM client written in Tcl/Tk and based on the Tik release from America Online. It runs on any system that supports Tcl/Tk.

    MiniTik AOL Instant Messenger Client []
  • I suggest you get an archived copy of ICQ98 from their ICQ FTP site. It's the best Win32 ICQ client available -- instant loading, an no known security holes (unlike the more recent "all things to all people" versions). icq98nm.exe is the "No MFC" version, which is probably what you want. Unfortunately, ICQ 98 can't use your existing ICQ [99[ab], 2000] lists, but it is well worth recreating it :)

    Interface warts aside, I find it as pleasent to use in Win32 as Licq is in Linux. Although floaty support in ICQ 98 is far, far supperior to the Licq support (QT frontend at least).
  • Yep, they really do need to inforce the AIM TLD, so that you don't mistake AOLers for normal people :-)

  • (IM client using IRC as the server)

    If we had such a client, we could run our own IM network

    That's easy. Just take some code from a common IRC client and add it to EveryBuddy []. Any takers?

  • In fact, with minimal additions, IRC could be the basis for a global, distributed IM system.

    That would be a really good idea. Perhaps somebody could hack something into Everybuddy [] to send private messages over IRC. Of course, there would have to be a special channel with a bot that manages buddy notification.

  • ...on CNBC there was a bit on AIM. It said over a billion messages were sent everyday. And, because of the AOL/Time Warner merger, yes, the FTC may consider this a monopolistic position.

    AOL representatives stated that they didn't want to open the source of AIM because it would most likely let in chain letters and spam, as ICQ suffers from. I have to say, from my experience with GAIM [], I have recevied hardly any unwanted messages. I remember a coupla years ago, I had ICQ, and it was horrible.

  • I can't resist.. shoot me if you must, moderators! That comment just screams for me to mention my app.

    The Kit AIM client [] already exists, for linux as well as other Unixes, I believe (I have no access to other Unixes, so I can't say for certain how portable it is)

    The most recent version is in the kdenetwork package, on the KDE cvs. The first stable version will be released with KDE 2.

    Oh, yes.. and there's already Kaim, Gaim, laim, TiK (GPL for Tcl/Tk by AOL), TNT (GPL for emacs by AOL), QuickBuddy (binary-only for Java by AOL).

  • AOL has posted an Internet Draft on their proposed IM protocol []. It is very similar in overall concept to the e-mail system - similarities such as introducing a new "IMX" record into DNS, the use of MIME as a message format, and providing each user with a unique myname@mydomain identifier, are some of the more obvious. It differs in a few ways - most notably, it is only a specification for server-to-server communication. Each server can, within the restrictions placed on it by its need to communicate with other servers, implement whatever server-to-client communication scheme it chooses. This means that protocols within individual IM services might be different - but nobody's getting locked out, since anyone with a domain can start their own IM service - just as anyone with a domain can send e-mail from that domain.
  • The AOL OpenIM [] protocol seems to be fairly reasonably constructed. If you check it out, it does NOT open up the client (OSCAR, not TOC) interface, but instead opens up inter-server gateways based on DNS 'IMX' records ala email MX records. No relaying is allowed, and connections are semi-persistent on-demand, and callbacks are used to verify the connecting server's DNS.

    Note: this means that if you're not on AOL (or using an AOL client), your IM address will be To you, AOL users will be, unless your IM server sends unknown users to AOL (and then you have the issue of collisions between local usernames and AOL names - but people/servers with small userbases probably wouldn't care much).

    This solution appears to open (some) IM (not all features are supported via OpenIM in the draft, and there's no guarantee that AOL will support more advanced features in their OpenIM gateways). However, it also preserves AOL's lock on it's username-space and adds inconvenience for non-AOL-IM users, encouraging them to use AOL's client.

    Still, it basically puts IM on the same footing and a similar architecture to email, which is a Good Thing.


    p.s. Note: in a previous life, I was one of 4 or 5 people at a company called PlayNet that wrote what later became AOL, including the original IM design. (This was in '84/85.)

  • > Why not marshall all the protocols together on the client end? MSN, Yahoo!, AIM... whatever.

    Take a look at Everybuddy []. This is a great Unix program that does exactly that. Many bells and whistles, too (like spell checking). No plans for a non-Unix version.

  • I've been doing bots and such with the Lotus SameTime product, which is an off-shoot of the AOL IM product. It's usefull to have an entity available that is hooked into your Enterprise Directory so a person look-up is only an IM away. The API is horrid! It uses lots of class variables so that you can only have one connection to the server per JVM! Ugly. The Win32 API is not an option for me ;-). Hopefully AOL will provide an API a bit more...uh...modular than SameTime's

    I did see a page which had some of the AIM protocol reverse engineered, but I figured since the MS/AOL pissing match the page would be out of date.

  • What would be nice, is if in additioning to opening up the client/server protocol, they'd implement and open a server-to-server protocol. This would instantly create an open, universal instant messaging network. If they want to guarantee their position as the instant messaging leader forever, this is the way to go. If they don't, it's only a matter of time before Microsoft figures out a way to eclipse them (as is evident in the fact that Exchange 2000 will include an IM server as part of the install).

    Now is the time to do this right.
  • As many probably know, M$ has been a noisemaker in trying to get AOL to open the IM protocols so that it can try to take over the IM world with it's Messenger service. if you want more info on the petition that's been going around about this, go to []
  • I was under the impression that AOL had opened the protocol up earlier to let clones like GAIM enact with the protocol. Wasn't this what prompted the whole Microsoft-AOL battle, where AOL kept trying to lock MS out? However, I think this is the way it should be-this will enable people to use clones of AIM without fear of compatibility issues.

    Colin Winters
  • Does this mean that someone will develop a decent AIM client to integrate with Mozilla? Netscape 6pr1 had one, although I never really used it (I upgraded to M15), so I know they want an AIM client to be part of Netscape 6, but will it be released for Mozilla? On all platforms that Mozilla supports? With all the extra features (talk, file sharing, buddy icons, etc.)?


  • I don't think the AIM protocol was a secret, considering how many clones there are out there. There may have been a few items in the protocol that people didn't know about, but nothing majorly functional AFAIK.

    Still, it's a good thing that they did this, since even though it's possible to reverse engineer these protocols, doesn't mean it's fun, quick, or easy.

  • by RobFlynn ( 127703 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:24AM (#999600)
    Heya. There's also been plenty of work out there in backwards engineering the oscar client -- we won't go into that here, though. heh. Anyways, You're correct on the TOC server being a "scaled down" version of OSCAR. Currently TOC does not support: Talk, Direct Connections (Images/etc), sending files, and buddy icons. In the TOC Protocol spec there are places set up for rvous_propose which would allow you to send propose requests. With this implemented sending/receiving files, talks, etc should be trivial. We'd just need to be told what protocol to use once the clientClient talks have been initiated. If not, I'm sure we could hack them up ourselves. The only other thing lying around other than that would be buddy icons. Either way, this can be a Good Thing(tm). Cheers and Happy /.'ing

  • Well, Jabber [] already has this, as well as really nice integration into all the major protocols.

    Mmmmmm, total world domination, mmmmmm

  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:27AM (#999603) Homepage Journal
    Here's a more detailed article on C|Net [] basically AOL has said they will soon present a proposal for interoperability with AIM. This seems like instead of making the protocol open, they'll release some sort of AIM API. The FTC investigation [] of the AOL-Time Warner merger is also sited as the cause for this move my C|Net. It's about time AOL did this, heck even Jesse Berst [] ranted about this yesterday.

  • The Jabber universal instant messaging client has an IRC Transport [].
  • by jetson123 ( 13128 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @11:21AM (#999610)
    Instant messaging that is tied to some big company other than your ISP and that relies on proprietary protocols is fundamentally flawed. There is no reason to give a single company that much control over some basic communications technology.

    IM should either be a server-side service like SMTP, provided by your ISP, a peer to peer system like Gnutella, or an open distributed system like IRC. In fact, with minimal additions, IRC could be the basis for a global, distributed IM system.

  • I'm still waiting for an IM client that doesn't SUCK. Resources that is. Every one I've used is an atrocious resource hog...especially ICQ with all it's bells and whistles and garish eye-gauging UI.

    How about a good ole command line client? Messages (or notices of messages) could just pop up on the command line. Enter a command or two to look through the list of messages. Enter another command to set up a "talk"-like chat.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Stop it right there. This is your IT department. We are coming to apprehend you. We also don't like the idea of your putting your butt on your web site.
  • They are alive! I've just pulled down the 1.0 server and got it going. Its pretty slick. The handling of the various protocols are handled by the server, so the client doesn't even have to worry about if its talking to jabber/icq/aim
    plus, the protocol agents run independently of the main jabber server, so you can update one at a time, plus completely GPL'd.

  • Although considered a rival of us by some people, EveryBuddy has been doing this for a while. Give them a look :) Cheers

  • And MSN and yahoo ...

    Check out Everybuddy []

    It currently uses the TOC protocol, which is the Used-to-be-open protocol that gaim [] and tik and every other aim clone uses. It doesn't have all the features that OSCAR has, like file transfer and all that. If the OSCAR protocol is opened up then all the clones will increase in quality across the board. If they are just "re-opening" TOC, then nothing will change really.

    But if people are looking for something that uses multiple services in one client, check out Everybuddy.

    Ben Rigas

  • ...except that the recent versions are astoundingly buggy. I keep upgrading in hopes that it'll get better, but I haven't been able to use Gaim at all recently. TiK runs slowly on my box, so that's annoying, but at least it runs. Fortunately I've got a Mac in the other room, so running AIM on Linux isn't a priority, but still....


  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:32AM (#999627)
    So let me get this right.. I have an essentially private network (AOL), build a tool that I never claim is open (AIM), and then I get government pressure to let other people use it? Why? AOL's competitors don't have any "right" to interoperate with AIM, they didn't spend any money developing it, didn't build up the infrastructure, didn't send out a bajillion CDs to get people to use it, but now they want to leverage it. Why does crap like this happen? What ever happened to private property rights in this country?

    All double-talk about open standards and consumer interest aside, the feds *want* to see AIM become *the* messaging standard for chat traffic for one simple reason - it's centralized. All message traffic transits AOL servers for easy monitoring and collection by the boys in blue (or men in black, for that matter).

    These pressures from the FTC are meant to drive wider adoption of AIM (the standard), whether or not the "AOL" is necessarily part of it.

    Just my take on the situation, of course


  • I'm on Gaim right now. There have been a few bugs, but 0.9.19 seems rather stable to me.
  • The announcement is not clear on what everyone here is assuming. Does opening up a protocol also mean AOL is letting everyone use their IM servers?
    I mean just cause you know the FTP protocol doesn't mean you can use my FTP server!
  • I have, and I'd like to point out three other posters interpreted what the original poster said the same way I did.

    Second, given the syntactical structure of English, the subclause following the comma refers to the AOL policy. "[T]o reflexively block anyone who implements the protocol and tries to talk to their servers without their permission" is a prepositional phrase describing the policy, so the sentence is equivalent to saying "What likely happened here is that AOL has/had a policy which is arguably llegal."

    But I do apologize if I misunderstood the author's intent. I did not intend to accidentally flame someone because of his grammar, given my tendency to make similar errors.

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • There is a program called everybuddy that allows you to use AIM/ICQ/Yahoo Chat all in one program. I haven't checked it out lately, but it was pretty cool when I did.

    They're constantly working on adding more chat types into it. It does requires accounts for each of the services, but that's not too hard to handle.

    I forget the site, but try searching on freshmeat for it.
  • by GrenDel Fuego ( 2558 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:42AM (#999650)
    One such attempt is gaim actually. As of version .18 I believe you can compile it with --enable-oscar.

    Not sure how well it works, but the support is there
  • yup yup :) I believe we've got all the big one's patched up. Cheers.

  • I've created an AOL Instant Messenger (TOC) to IRC gateway. It pretends to be an IRC server, links up with your IRC server, and creates the nick AIMServ that you can then send, say PRIVMSG signon screenname password to. It makes IRC nicks for your buddies (AIM-SomeBuddy) so you can PRIVMSG them and it makes channels (#aimchat-1234) for AIM chatrooms. Here's the homepage [].
  • What a bunch of crap. That's like saying Ford has a monopoly in the Ford Mustang market because they don't let other people license the design for their cars.

    There are no end of entrients in the IM market... MS, Yahoo, Tribal Voice all come to mind without thinking about it very hard.

    Besides, Mr. Anti trust lawyer, there is nothing magical that says a) if you have over 50% market share you are a monopoly and b) there is nothing illegal about being a monopoly per se.
  • Third, they will slaughter all the other messaging services except for ICQ, and even ICQ is going to hurt a little. Having the biggest installed base counts for more than having the broadest featureset.

    Didn't AOL purchase ICQ?
  • Many chat clients do have viruses/virii/trojans/worms.

    The very popular mIRC has a lot of scripting abilities in it. Older versions had "default scripts," and, if you had DCC autoget enabled, someone could replace your default scripts rather easily, and you would start sending out the virus yourself. I've also seen a newer version of that which relies on .bat files of some kind.

    Also, the much older ircii had numerous "warscripts," "botscripts," and so forth that, at the very least, were often useful-but-trojaned, allowing remote users to control IRC clients. Worse yet, ircii even had an "/exec" command, allowing you to execute commands right onto your shell. As you might imagine, getting newbies to "/exec rm [fileglob of your choice]" was considered high sport.

    Basically, they had roughly the same susceptibility to attacks as does the oft-maligned-and-deserving-it Microsoft Outlook.

  • This is at least one thing that the antitrust case should prevent. Windows, Inc. will not be allowed to bundle Microsoft applications (such as Microsoft Messenger) as part of the operating system...

    I don't see why Microsoft OS inc. couldn't, however, license the 'amazing' new 'IntelliActiveDirectMessageX' application from 'Microsoft Apps, inc.', and then include it anyway.

    Quite simply, I think it'll take proliferation of an open standard/protocol to fix any monopolization of this 'market', just as with so many others.

    Joe Sixpack is dead!
  • Well, there's a difference between opening up the protocol and opening up th AOL servers to other clients (but I presume you could set up you own server, if the project is valuable to your organization -- presumably within Lotus SameTime.)

    Personally, when I read the title of your post, the first thing I thought was "OmiGawd - IM spam! There are certainly enough addresses in harvestable form out there. Spammers don't seem to care who they annoy for that .001% sales rate.

    Take it a step further - a bot that 'listens' for certain keyphrases, and interjects product recommendations.

    DaveThomas: What sort of POS terminals do you think we buy for our 5000 retail outlets?
    FrankPerdue: We use distributors, and don't do POS
    JSmith@PhoneyOutfit: For price, reliability, and service, you can't beat CrapCo. An industy secret! Best in the business!

    The mind boggles at the possibilities. Especially since opening up the protocol increases the possibility that a spammer, using a custom spam program, could fake being a (e.g. an older) AIM client

    Disclaimer: I haven't used AIM in a year, and only used it for limited purposes, like instant communication when collaborating on projects. I may not recall its specific capabilities entirely correctly.
  • by RobFlynn ( 127703 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @12:50PM (#999671)
    Althought I do not know if AOL would implement the PGP/Encrypted/Key style of messaging, it could be accomplished with a fairly simple GAIM plugin. Although, it'd only work from GAIMGAIM. I've been talking with the TiK authors on various occasions about making our two clients interoperate a little better. We support some of their customized features and in return they support some of ours. It could work out to be a pretty good thing :-) Cheers and Happy Slashdotting

  • The official AOL documentation for TOC is included in the GAIM distrobution. I doubt that they are just re-releasing that, but I suppose it is possible.

    Several days ago, the TOC server went down for some time. I re-compiled GAIM to use the "experimental" OSCAR support, and I've been online ever since.

    Ah, the joys of open source software. My GAIM conversation windows have a big toggle button on the bottom marked "Sveedish Cheff". Turn it on, and everything I say gets converted before being sent. Bork Bork Bork!


  • You mean, more clueless newbies than they already have? Where would they _find_ them? Cloning? Putting AOL devices in zoos for the chimps to play with? The mind boggles....

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:48AM (#999682) Homepage
    ICQ assigns people by number, not name. (trying to do names in something like the Internet is stupid anyway, I don't want to be known as Bob1027)

    So its quite easy to have multiple people on your list with the exact same name, in fact I have two of them right now. Its not really a problem because when they message you, its usually pretty easy to tell which one is which by their email addy and what they're actually saying.

    It might get more difficult if you have like six of them that way, but you can rename people in ICQ on your list to whatever you want, so its a non issue. Besides, its easier to keep track of that then of Bob_1, Bob102, Bob5, 2343Bob, and the other assorted myriad of idiotic names the AOL system conjures up.
  • by grappler ( 14976 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @10:11AM (#999688) Homepage
    Anyone know what the deal is on Jabber? I know the project is alive, and they now have reached version 1.0 for their server (which incidentally is an open server-to-server protocol like another post here wished for). I just don't ever hear anything about jabber anymore unless I go to their website.

    Anyway, if AOL is opening their Oscar protocol (as opposed to the TOC protocol) this could be a great help to Jabber, if they incorporate it. Let's make this thing more widespread people! If you work at an ISP, set up a jabber server and provide your customers with clients and instructions for setting it up. Same thing if you manage a University computing center or, possibly, a business. This is our chance to make a decentralized worldwide free instant messing network. And the software is _already here_.

  • Incidentally, their page is at [].

  • I like the way Everybuddy [] does it - each user on your contact list can have an arbitrary number of user IDs for any of the supported IM systems associated with it. If the user comes online on any of the accounts it shows the user as online. I think there's a way to set a preferred protocol to use if the user is online using more than one system.

    Also see the poster who mentioned Jabber [].

  • by zTTTz ( 176815 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @10:16AM (#999693)
    I read about this over at [] and some things NEED to be cleared up.
    1: The FTC does not care about AOL opening up the protocol because it is a free service.
    2: Furthermore the article states "We are planning to put out to the industry a way we think that can be done in terms of commitment to interoperability. (The industry) will hear something from us soon,"
    The SOON means whenever AOL get's around it. They will probably say WE are the standard in their proposal. And it will get drafted to death by Microsoft and others which will delay the process. There is and won't be a universal chat client for a long time.
  • The decision to open the protocol is surprising as just this week a rival program entitled Odigo debuted its latest version with connectivity to AOL and ICQ, making it universal. In a not-so-surprising move, AOL blocked that access like it had in the past to Odigo, Microsoft, and Yahoo chat programs.

    What likely happened here is that AOL has/had a policy to reflexively block anyone who implements the protocol and tries to talk to their servers without their permission, which is arguably illegal and definitely inappropriate, or at least impolite.

    However, opening it up actually does show some benefit; First of all, this gives still more benefit to AOL users, allowing them to trade messages with people who won't use AIM (because it sucks.) Second, they can stop fighting legal battles over it. Third, they will slaughter all the other messaging services except for ICQ, and even ICQ is going to hurt a little. Having the biggest installed base counts for more than having the broadest featureset.

    In any case, this will put an end to anyone who has implemented their own messaging service. It's over, folks. Change your messager to support AIM and put an ad in it, and move on to the next software development project. You missed the boat.

  • I think it would be nicest if the whole system was simplified.

    At the moment the main model (commercial/propriety or not) is that the one system does everything. It registers people's online state, stores undelivered messages, stores people's personal details, performs searches, etc etc.

    Some systems use client-to-client protocols to lower the load on the server and that's great, but IMHO it'd be even better if the services were completely separate. All that the main system would ever need to do is register whether people were online or not, and dictate who was allowed to know about who else was on.

    Having different servers implementing standardised protocols for every service and letting the clients decide which ones they're going to use would make the whole thing much easier to extend. (Even if the services were all provided by the same provider.)

    Splitting them up and modulising would also give providers and users the freedom to choose what services they wanted, and it'd generally make it easier for each module to be developed separately. If the original system didn't support server-server communication, someone could quite easily write a new one that did.

  • by Matt Amato ( 2494 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:11AM (#999706)
    I was under the impression that AOL had opened the protocol up earlier to let clones like GAIM enact with the protocol. Wasn't this what prompted the whole Microsoft-AOL battle, where AOL kept trying to lock MS out? However, I think this is the way it should be-this will enable people to use clones of AIM without fear of compatibility issues.

    AOL Actually has 2 protocols. One is the toc protocol, which is a much simpler string-based protocol that only has one server, It does not allow fine grained control such as changing passwords and such, but only provides the basic communications. OSCAR, the main AIM protocol is proprietary. Altough several attempts at reverse-engineering the protocol are in affect.

  • Everyone who works at AOL (myself included) as well as other stockholders want this merger to go through.

    The idea doesn?t bother you? Don't get me wrong, I like AOL as much as everyone else (*cough*), but doesn?t the idea of one company having so much power disturb you? AOL has constantly been disruptive force online. And their policies about things like free speech are not anywhere near the policies laid out in the US constitution.

    When I had an AOL account, back in the day, the provided free web space. And they still do, it's just, you need to have a huge add plastered up on your site. I find that disgusting. Profiting of other peoples work (when they are already paying for the service). AOL is commoditizing its user base in more ways than I can imagine (this is a company that used to sell mailing lists of its users). I don't think AOL owing one of the largest 'old media' companies in the US (and the world) doesn't exactly warm my heart.

    It used to be the dream that the Internet would break down the barriers of nation and the world. And in some ways, it has. The other day I got an ICQ message from someone in Iran. But in that world it isn't the individual that's being empowered, it?s the corporation.

    I hope the FTC cuts this merger like a dead rat.

    Amber Yuan 2k A.D
  • by anubis__ ( 168382 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:49AM (#999711) Homepage
    Well the Oscar protocol opens and closes every now and then, but not in the traditional sense. If you search enough, you can find [outdated] Oscar protocol specifications. In fact, my roommate was working on a C++ Builder library for Win32 to implement what he found of it. Granted he doesn't get the Voice over IP feature (or whatever it is) but he'll get most of the protocol.

    The TOC protocol has always been open since they released the specifications for the Java TIC and Tcl/Tk TiK clients some time ago.

    Then you have Jabber, which offers free open source clients and servers that bridge between their own open source XML protocol, AOL's [TOC probably] and AOL's/Mirabilis ICQ. Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be incredibly popular.

    Why not marshall all the protocols together on the client end? MSN, Yahoo!, AIM... whatever.

    I've been working on an open source prototype using this idea for a bit now. Its Win32 and written in VB6, but the final product is planned to be compiled in Delphi 5.0:
  • Gnutella did NOT have a worm. They had someone hosting a vb script. That's like saying that ftp has a worm because some goober hosts a vb script on his ftp server.

    I do not believe that ANY chat client has the ability to execute code or even a scripting language, and if someone sends someone else a file that has a virus, that isn't a worm it's two stupid users.

  • Obviously we need to assign and enforce IM TLDs:
    • Randomguy.AIM
    • Randomguy.ICQ
    • Randomguy.YAIM
  • by generic-man ( 33649 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @10:28AM (#999721) Homepage Journal
    Everybuddy is at []. I use it (it does AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, and MSN, but I only use the first two) and it works pretty well. It still is a bit lacking in the feature department -- you can't set default means of contact without editing the config file by hand, you can't view info or away messages, you can't do any cool ICQ extended features, etc. -- but it's coming along. I like it because it's lightweight, ad-free, and doesn't require me to run two programs. I even have two AIM screen names in there, just in case people are still used to messaging me through my old name.

    It's worth the download, IMO. Hopefully it'll only get better over time.
  • by clasher ( 2351 ) <bkeffer.thecommandline@org> on Thursday June 15, 2000 @10:31AM (#999722) Homepage
    I've seen Jabber mentioned a few times already but I think it deserves to be be recognized. A GPLed instant messaging client/server is a good thing. I think they have a good design using XML and an email like postoffice system. I plan on starting up my own public jabber server as soon as I get a dedicated Internet connection.

    People need to start using Jabber. The have a few clients up already and are working on more, it seems this projects only problem is a shortage of users and testers.
  • Strange. I primarily use AIM for Mac OS, so I'm not as familiar with the AIM for Windows bugs, but make sure you're both running AIM 4.0 or the latest beta release [], and be sure to look through your preferences to see if you've got any weird settings in there (text magnification settings, for example).


  • And I quote them all. . .

    Here is the article on eFront []. And here [] is the Register article about FTC's request.

    And here are some additional background links from c|net: 1 [] and 2 []. Each of those is extensively linked to additional information about AOL's previous runins with Tribal Voice and MS.

  • by HomerJ ( 11142 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:14AM (#999731)
    from my understanding of it, AIM has two protocols. Oscar, and TOC.

    TOC is what AOL had all the docs for, and what thier TiK client used. It's also what gaim uses to communicate with.TOC basicly being a "front-end" so to speak for the real protocol

    Oscar is their closed protocol they use for their own official clients. Probably better then TOC, I'm not sure on the specifics, hopefully others will post. This has NEVER been open, and subject to change. I'm sure all gaim users remember a couple weeks ago, when they changed to login sequence and we couldn't get in for a few days until the gaim guys figured out how they changed it.

    If it's just TOC they are re-releasing, then it's not much more then all the info that's already out there. If it's Oscar, then it should let all clents such as gaim, and even the un-offical icq clients, like licq and gnomeicq, to intergrate AIM support.

    But I have a feeling it's TOC, and not Oscar they are going to open up. Hopefully others will post and set all the technical details straight.
  • by BilldaCat ( 19181 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:14AM (#999734) Homepage
    But how do you differentiate between all the users on the current systems? What if there are 2 different people, one on AIM, one on ICQ, both using the same nickname? Split it up into seperate sections as to which client they are using?

    AIM List

    ICQ List


    Might be a little weird if a bunch more IM programs begin showing up/getting popular.. hmm.
  • by Hollins ( 83264 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:14AM (#999735) Homepage

    As much inconvenience as it's caused and most posts here to the contrary, I completely understand AOL's past position on this, at least from a business standpoint.

    Microsoft's IM client will become an integrated part of all future releases of their OSes, and they'll annex the man-share of new subscribers. After that, the only ones signing up for AIM will be AOL subscribers who become AIM users by default.

    AOL users (of which I doubt there are many on /.) can expect this experience:

    1. Install Windows2002
    2. Notice Instant Messaging client which you configure to use with your current AIM acct. (this will be part of the installation process)
    3. Install AOL 6.0
    4. Notice other IM client has been replaced (remember what AOL 5.0 does to people's existing dial-up and TCP/IP configuration).

    This type of experience is just going to get worse and worse. [SARCASM]But take comfort. At least more and more of your Windows desktop will be displaying ads you can't get rid of.[/SARCASM]

  • Windows runs command stored in these registry keys:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/software/Microsoft/Windows/Curr entVersion/Run

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER/software/Microsoft/Windows/Curre ntVersion/Run

    As well as like runOnce and every thing like that in the same directorys.

    Btw, a good way to find something in the registry is to do a search for something like the program file name.

    Amber Yuan 2k A.D
  • Hmm...Ive been hacking up a AIM clone on Visual Basic so the IT department where I work can't detect it, so I know the limitations of the TOC protocol :o) Lets take a look at the basic features OSCAR has over TOC.

    Buddy Icon - Although it is pretty fun to play with it is not that useful.

    Chat - Hmmmm You can do that with the TOC server...

    Get File - I can think of a lot better ways to send a file than over AIM. When I went from modem to DSL it stopped working for me. They I went to cable and it works again. But I still prefer IRC, Email or what not.

    Talk - I have tried the talk feature on AIM and I find that you can get free third part utilities that work better for low bandwidth solutions.

    New and Stock Ticker - Well I spend my money before I earn it so I haven't found too much of a use for this one either, put their are a million other better programs that will give you the stock and news ticker for free(ex:

    BTW, if I ever get off by butt I might just put it on my web site.

  • What likely happened here is that AOL has/had a policy to reflexively block anyone who implements the protocol and tries to talk to their servers without their permission, which is arguably illegal

    Now, that gets the Dumb Statment of the Day award.

    AOL owns the servers, so AOL is allowed to set conditions on their use. Otherwise every person who used the RBL, which deny some others access to the users' servers, would be acting illegally.

    It's not only legal for them to deny permission, but using their servers without their permission is illegal under current law. When MS bypassed AOL's restrictions, they were cracking the AOL servers, and opened themselves to criminal charges.

    For all the bullshit about openess you heard from the likes of MS, nobody asked a simple question -- why didn't they set up their own open servers? AIM can be targeted at non-AOL servers, after all; but MS didn't even set up a single AIM-accessible server.

    No, what MS wanted was free access to an infrastructure and community AOL built. Why the hell should MS have free access to something AOL paid for?

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • Actually, this is what Jabber does.

    Say, for some reason, you have two identically named people, one on AIM and one on ICQ. In order to send a message to the person on AIM, you would address your Jabber message as: JoeBlow@aim. ICQ would be: JoeBlow@icq. (Notwithstanding that you can't have somebody on ICQ named JoeBlow, because ICQ identifiers are numbers...)

    The Jabber service simply checks the "domain" of the message (aim, icq, msn, etc.) and then routes the message through the appropriate service.

  • Uhm, yes, ICQ is owned by AOL. At least, Mirabilis, who makes ICQ, was bought by AOL about a year ago. It made slashdot.
  • Back when I was in college (Around '88) we had bitnet and bitnet relay chat. Built into VM/CMS was the ability to send an instant message to any other user on the network, find out if that user was logged in and chat real time with one or many users. The messages were easy to field using your own REXX code and you could pretty much do anything with them. In fact, I wrote a client-server remote control app that would allow you to send messages to a server on a remote system and execute commands on that system, forwarding the output of the commands back to you. Hmm. I should have patented that...
  • by Rombuu ( 22914 ) on Thursday June 15, 2000 @09:17AM (#999759)
    So let me get this right.. I have an essentially private network (AOL), build a tool that I never claim is open (AIM), and then I get government pressure to let other people use it? Why? AOL's competitors don't have any "right" to interoperate with AIM, they didn't spend any money developing it, didn't build up the infrastructure, didn't send out a bajillion CDs to get people to use it, but now they want to leverage it. Why does crap like this happen? What ever happened to private property rights in this country?

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.