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AOL Shuts Down 3rd Party IM Software? 236

David Gervais noted that AOL has begun shutting out third party IM software (among other things, breaking the Linux clones). Their error message is "AOL IMer Client: Gaim CVS Version. 09:24:11 AOL Instant Messenger: You have been disconnected from the AOL Instant Message Service (SM) for accessing the AOL network using unauthorized software." Can someone confirm this, or is Mr Gervais on something here? I've had several folks say they can get through just fine. Perhaps this is just a Gaim CVS bug? Update: 09/11 05:12 PM by C : Have tested AIM connectivity with Gaim v0.9.20 and Everybuddy 0.1.4 with no problems. Sorry for the scare.
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AOL Shuts Down 3rd Party IM Software

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  • tell aol that you are using their TAC client. see aimirc [] for more information.
  • With IM, you just get spammed all the time, and AoL's email is FILLED with spam, mostly XXX garbage. That's not what I want showing up in my mailbox for sure. So, use ICQ! Check out if you've never heard of it. It's free obviously, and I think more people use it. I don't think it would be hard to write a version for *nix, and I think that since AoL has done what they have, we should be expecting a third party to write one, or ICQ themselves... if they are smart that is!
  • How does AOL survive providing their own content and their own "interface" to the internet?

    And now they sever another link between their clients and the outside world? I don't get it.


    Perspectrum - All possible views or perspectives on an issue.
  • Okay, I cant make it short and sweet because of "Lameness filter". First time i've encountered that. They make money off the ads ;)
  • We get enough buffer overflows by accident. I'm sure that setting one up intentionally shouldn't be too hard. ;-) And if everything else fails, just boycott the AOL protocol entirely and use ICQ or Yahoo instead.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    err... []
  • ...people will check with others before posting stories like this. It would be nice for slashdot and story posters to cut down on the inaccurate information being rolled on like wallpaper to the site. at least 12 of my friends in the area use GAIM and have had no problems whatsoever.
  • one would think you'd learn to look before you leap, at least for a while...

    Rather takes the fun out of making the jump, now doesn't it?


  • it's easy to agree with the sentiments in your post, but they may not be accurate.

    if they only want their client to talk to their server, they are entitled. This may suck for everyone in the short term,

    certainly they are entitled to want that, but it is questionable whether they are legally entitled to have that, and doubly questionable whether they should be legally entitled to have that. Consider the telephone. It used to be that you could only connect a Bell telephone to the one company's circuits. Now you can connect any kind to a choice of servers, and the world is unquestionably a better place. The changeover required a change in the law and it took 100 years. That did suck for everyone, and lets not repeat it.

    but alternatives will prevail if they stay closed.

    Not necessarily. This industry, like the telephone, could be an example of a natural monopoly, in which case it takes active opposition/regulation to keep it open, cheap, and innovative.

  • No, actually it's here. []
  • And then AOL will do the same for ICQ.... evil cycle.
  • From the few response of people that actually tried it appears just to be a CVS bug. I wish people would check facts before assuming that a problem with CVS is of any significance. For the record, i am have had no problems running the release ver.
  • Uhm... so what you are saying is that... AOL's servers should not be legally entitled to shut out clients that they don't like, even though it is THEIR hardware.

    On the other hand, the sentiment is that spammers should not be allowed to send their junk mail to YOUR machine, because it is YOUR hardware.

    Let's be consistent, shall we? Either you allow spammers access to your hardware, or you allow AOL to deny unauthorized access to their hardware.
  • This is typical. /. posts about something with virtually no information about it. We all know that more facts will probably surface in 24 hours, probably contradicting much of what is known now, but /. will be first on the scene. Of course, you can also bet on hundreds of people flaming AOL and drawing conclusions. Being first isn't more important than having something to say.
  • I agree with your sentiment also, but not at all with the details. I don't believe that corporations have any responsibility to the community other than to fulfill their promises. Their products should do what they say they do, and they should pay their employees what they say they will, and they should obey other applicable law, including primarily looking to maximize shareholder value. If they do anything beyond that, I believe that they are being irresponsible. There are a whole diversity of people who may be shareholders. Let them each behave responsibly in the way they want to and not be coerced into accepting responsibilities they don't agree with.

    Am I a glassy-eyed libertarian? Not in any way. The community has a responsibility to itself and we should insist that AIM and services like AIM have open standards, and we should legislate, hack, clone, whatever to get there. I want to achieve the same "best" result you do, but I don't want to get preachy and moralize about it. There's nothing wrong with AOL's attitude, but we need to make sure they don't get what they want as it hurts us.

  • may want to check up on your stories once in awhile.
  • This point seems to be forgotten in every discussion brought up involving AOL. There are two protocols that AIM can use, the proprietary one that AOL's Windows Clients use (and M$ insists on using, hence their being kicked off of it), and the TOC protocol, which is the open-source equivalent. The reason that GAIM users are currently being kicked off is that they were recently given the option in the configuration setup to choose which protocol to use, and chose the proprietary one, which is an unauthorized connection. If you switch back to TOC, which is the default in such OSS programs as TiK, you won't have any problems connecting. How is it that this point is fore-gone during every IM discussion? I really don't know.
  • by dlgree1 ( 200197 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @08:04AM (#788140)
    AOL has had a linux beta out for a few months now. You can find it here []
  • In case anyone cares to stop bickering, AOL already has an official Linux client in the works here []. Have fun!
  • by RobFlynn ( 127703 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @08:07AM (#788142)
    Hello, All. Rob Flynn here, Gaim Maintainer and leader devleoper. We have, on some occasions, experienced this as well. It only happens, however, when using our experimental oscar support. Our Oscar support is based on a package called libfaim. This is a somewhat reverse engineered library that allows anyone to use the OSCAR server. AOL has recently started blocking libfaim. Note: They are not blocking the clients theselves it appears to only be this library. I spoke with several people at AOL and learned that the TOC servers would not be affected. (I guess we can still expect the occasional TOC-Burp that we all experience from time to time). If anyone has any questions on this matter, please feel free to let me know. Thanks and Take Care, Rob PS: Gaim 0.10.0 was released this morn' :-)

    Rob Flynn
  • The same as in the great CueCat debate.

    How is AOL going to make money?

    AOL thinks there are lots of ways to make money on messaging. One of their executives is quoted as saying that Instant Messaging is AOL's most important asset.

    But clearly, they think they can only succeed if they control the client as well as the servers. And a route into their system where they don't control the client is apparently unacceptable to them.
  • This has happened before.
    Aol seems to be changing the authentication
    a bit, maybe standardizing. Tried upgrading?
    A new versiom of gaim showed up yesterday and
    I'm not having any problems connecting.
  • by foom ( 29095 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:14AM (#788145) Homepage
    I don't understand what the big deal is here...why are so many linux clients using the AOL private protocol, when AOL relased a public protocol (TOC) that works just fine? Not only does the public protocol still work, it also supports storing buddy lists on the server, which is a very nice feature.
    As far as I know, however, only tik and tac use TOC. All the other stuff uses the half-working, mostly-broken, half-implemented FAIM implementation of AOL's private protocol. Is everyone just crazy, or what?
    I don't blame AOL for breaking support for their private protocol. Just use the public one. Its there, it works. What's the big deal?
  • AFAIK, there are two AIM protocols... There is TOC which was the original protocol and was later open-sourced so that other people could write clients (like AOL's old Tk client). Then there is OSCAR, which is the better protocol that has more features, but has no docs behind it.

    Reportedly, AOL has been talking about closing their TOC servers for a while now, and my guess is that they finally did that. Clients which use OSCAR (this includes everybuddy) are unaffected.

    There's more info in the Everybuddy FAQ [].

    Please note that the above "facts" are all based on heresay and conjecture.
  • But, is AOL making any money off of AIM aside from their stupid banners they put in AIM?

    Yes, that's exactly it. Third-party clients bypass the ads and so they cost AOL money.

    You're just going to have to accept the fact that this is AOL's technology and they have the right to exclude whatever they want.

    Frankly, I don't understand the commotion. There must be open alternatives, so why not use those instead? Or do you really want to talk to people who like AOL? My email client automatically deletes all email from, because only lusers use AOL, so why would I want to talk to them anyway?

  • I'd hardly call capitalists "jedis," unless you're talking about the dark kind.
  • AOL isn't scoffing at the "standards". First off, their isn't a standard. Secondly, if a standard comes about it'll be formed from a commitee of a bunch of companies like Microsoft. Thirdly, if a standard is agreed upon, AOL has stated that they will evaluate the technical merits of the standard and conform AIM to those standards if it is worthy.

  • by AbbyNormal ( 216235 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:16AM (#788150) Homepage
    Cool. Lets sue AOl and claim they are denying access for NON-handicapped Americans (ie. Not Windoze users).

  • I never implied that it wasn't free.
  • AOL did release a Linux beta [] of AIM on their web site. However, the program is extremely light on features -- it doesn't even have ads (yet) and supports only the basics of the TOC protocol: messages, away, and buddy chat. I wouldn't be surprised if AOL managed to break this program as well.
  • I am the author of jaim ( and AOL _WAS_ blocking clients. This is entirely true. I had to spoof TiK to get my client to work.
    a funny comment: 1 karma
    an insightful comment: 1 karma
    a good old-fashioned flame: priceless
  • Hey, thanks for the tip... Now, any idea how to get rid of the blank spaces where the ads used to be? I'm guessing maybe this whole thing is possible so AOL users don't have to view a bunch of stupid ads telling them to join AOL...?
  • You raise an interesting point about who should bear the cost of operating the servers, but I don't think your analogy gets to the heart of the matter. I believe that I should be allowed to stop spam in my email, and spam on my instant messenger, and to me this has to do with the legitimate regulation of commercial and harassing speech, not the cost of operating my mailbox.

    On the cost of servers issue, I think bundling is in general a bad idea for consumers as it generally represents an attempt by a company to leverage some strength in order to gain share for some inferior product or to damage a legitimate competitor. As consumers we protect ourselves if we set up markets such that we are not faced with choices of bundles that include inferior products. So, the answer would depend on AOL's revenue model. If ads pay for the servers, then I'd be happy to require that clones run the same ads. If they're giving away the service in order to garner share, then AFAIC they've agreed to give it away.

  • Yes but said "official client" sucks. It it is practically featureless
  • Linux users shouldn't expect to be able to use AOL Instant Messenger until after AOL for Linux has been released.

    Well, this strikes me as somewhat amusing as I am running AIM for linux as we speak. Interested parties can check AOL's site [].

  • More than likely it is just something silly on my part. Try the upgrade to 0.10.0 and see if that fixes it. Cheers, Rob

    Rob Flynn
  • They do that, they'll slowly go back to being a network effectively isolated from the rest of the internet. And I don't think they want that. Remember that the internet routes around damage. AOL is coming closer and closer to qualifying as damage.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:00AM (#788160) Homepage Journal
    But that trick never works!
  • I mean, come on, they opened the TOC protocol - why would they do that, ostensibly to facilitate communication with AIM users from other clients, and then lock out clients?

  • Well, I use GAIM on my SGI Octane and I use AOL's own IM client on my Win box and what I say after this is sure to tick some people off. Let me first start off by saying that I am relatively neutral to this argument of open vs closed AOL IM access. The fact of the matter is that AOL did invent this platform and they run the servers that authenticate users. First off, the servers aren't free and any and all additional traffic they handle from third party apps comes without any revenue to support the costs while AOL's own client has ads that defray these costs and basically pay its way. Secondly, since AOL created this platform, why should they be forced to open it up? A good analogy to this would be that you started a really cool club that anyone could join, but a rival club that came out after most people already joined the cool one isn't as big and is jealous. The little club that came out with theirs years later is mad that they have less members so instead of trying to make an even better club they complain that the big cool club should share its members. Just something to think about...
  • I think I speak for us all when I say, "Dammit!"

    All generalizations are false.

  • If AOL successfully shuts down the AIM clones you can bet your bottom [local currency] that they'll start shutting down ICQ clones next!

    That's exactly what I was thinking as soon as I saw this article. I think that maybe some people don't realize (or have forgotten), that AOL is "in charge of" ICQ now.


  • ICQ is a piece of shit. Its official clients are buggy, feature-bloated, and even less standards-compliant than AOL's software.
    ICQ crashes on me once in a blue moon. AIM crashes on me about once every week or two.

    ICQ being feature-bloated means I can do more shit than I can with AIM. Yes, there are a ton of features I don't use too, but some other people do.

    As for standards-compliance, ICQ's servers have never blocked 3rd-party clients from communicating - they just made the separate client-to-server and client-to-client protocols a pain in the ass to both implement.

    Not that it matters anymore, now that AOL is putting ads in ICQ... Anyone see a banner ad other than the stupid Network Solutions stuff yet?
  • Yup. That's why we also have our oscar support marked as 'Experimental' Our TOC Support (protocol-wise) is fully functional, as far as we know. We only added libfaim due to the TOC outeges that were experienced a while back. Eric got a little code happy, though, and decided to improve on it quite a bit :-)

    Rob Flynn
  • You have some real good points, but you may be wrong.

    There are two camps it seems like in the OSS community. A very serious camp does not want to make thier products and services available to the mainstream computer public. I know of literally *hundreds* of my collegues who rue the day that the mainstream puts linux on their desktop. They are personally insulted that their elite OS is being turned into a desktop newbie off the shelf OS. They hate it.

    On the other hand are companies and good size group of people who want everyone to use Linux. Down with MS they cry, down with AOL, open the world. And its moving along. But really how well?

    I have used Jabber, and I have used Vorbis. But the problem is this, it seems: People see the shiny technologies pioneered by coroporations. Vorbis is better than MP3 in most everyway. But I'd willing guarntee that 99% of people who know what MP3 is dont know what Vorbis is. Similiarly with Jabber, and IceCast. People dont want to swap a competing technology. They see a good thing, they want to use it. And as long as 90% of them are happy with it, they wont change 'to be free-er' or accomodate the 5% of people who want to use an incompatible alternative. We may be on the right ideologically, but in terms of attractiveness and easy of use, appeal to the masses, we are making only minor gains.

    So whats the soltion? I dont know. But if certain groups want to keep linux to the elite, then we will never see a day when corporations are out of customers.

    And think, where are we now? What Open Source alternatives have won over a corporate model?

    Apache? Yes, kinda. Apache with a Nix has always been the web standard. MS entered just recently (what maybe 5-6 years? i dont remember).

    OpenNap? Not really, not yet. It will take a while or the closing of Napster down.

    Mozilla? We will have to wait and see, though it looks good.

    I mean really, though, I hope you can see my point. There seems to be a following of 'nixers who go out of there way to avoid the mainstream. And that is very bad for the whole anti-corporate movement. That just drives people towards shiny easy closed but working and easy and compiled and simple programs. I mean my goddamn grandmother is on AIM. My parents, everyone.

    Sorry for the sorta off topic rant, but thanks for listening.

  • Didn't AOL do this to microsoft? It's their servers, they have a right to say what can and can't be on it.
  • I seem to remember an article posted here (I may be wrong, but if memory serves, it was at the beginning of all this mess 8-10 months ago) Microsoft and Yahoo! (among others) were willing to create an industry wide standard, but AOL refused to join in the talks, and since AOL has like 80+% of the market, those talks were pointless to hold.
    Granted, it was probably a ploy by MS et al to get a piece of the action, but AOL did not want to have any part of it.

    And as it stands, I'm MUCH more afraid of the AOL/TW merger than Microsoft. At least with MS, there are feasible alternatives.
  • Umm... Is it just me, or isn't releasing a product with a known and possibly intentional overflow exploit an extremely stupid/irresponsible thing to do?

    Especially on a windows box, where every proggy runs as root, this would mean that any random script kiddie would have total control over a computer running AIM. That's a lost of people. Can anyone say "class action"?

  • by funkman ( 13736 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:02AM (#788171)
    If they only want their client to talk to their server, they are entitled. This may suck for everyone in the short term, but alternatives will prevail if they stay closed.
  • It's not to tear down M$ - they want to BE the next M$.

    This means they will want to confine and control you. Make you use their product because others aren't compatible. TO talk to their users, you have to use their software and see their ads. Your information will get recorded by them, and sold to anyone willing to pay them the $ they ask.

    If the AOL/TW merger goes through - expect to see TW Cable saturated with AOL ads (and you thought they were bad now!) - expect RoadRunner service to go down the toilet and for prices to rise. Expect MORE spam - not less. Expect the spam to come in MORE formats - email, on-screen, TV, etc...

    AOL's philosophy has been to spam since the beginning. Spamming people's snail-mailboxes with disks, and later CDs - spamming their users with ads for products they could probably care less about - spamming TV stations with ads (sometimes that play 2-3 times in a row) to make sure you repeat their name in your sleep. It's a not-so-subtle form of mind control - and it's working on the masses. They believe ANYTHING that AOL tells them. "We respect your privacy" - BULL$#!^ - the only thing AOL respects is the almighty dollar - and they'll do anything to get it.

    I'm off-topic now...let's get back on...

    Linux clients made by 3rd parties don't display AOL's ads to users. They don't track the user's habits and report back to AOL. They don't do ANYTHING other than be a messaging client.

    And thus AOL can make NO money off of them.

    So AOL shuts them out. People can't use them - so they'll use the "official" AOL software that makes AOL money. At least, that's AOL's opinion on the matter.

    The linux community, however, will probably not conform to AOL's wishes - reverse engineering will get the clients back into the system, and linux users will be happy and ad-free.

    AOL will change their "authentication" checks again.

    Linux clients will reverse-engineer them and get back in.

    Lather, rinse, repeat. It's the same $#!^ that they pulled with M$'s messenger program - except now it's hitting closer to home.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:02AM (#788176)
    should bid on F*
  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:02AM (#788178)
    I have in my hand the response from the geek community in response to this...

    Nuts .

    For those who don't know the historical reference, pop open the nearest history book and flip to the WWII section. =) All this means is that now we're going to change the version the software reports and recompile. w00t, big deal, hardly worth a post to /..


  • I seem to remember seeing a piece about a software project that allows AOL IM clients to connect to an IRC server an then send and receive messages via that. It seemed to be an addon for the ircd running (so you must be the owner of the IRC server to make this work.)

    Perhaps something like this will allow us to use IM clients without having to go through AOL's servers. Seems like a good alternative for me.

    Although personally, I don't use a IM client of any flavor. I prefer real, live IRC (because I don't have any friends).

  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:18AM (#788181) Homepage
    I'm using version 0.9.2 of GAIM and I'm not having a single problem with it right now. Perhaps they just haven't gone to block out previous versions yet. So, if you want to connect up you might want to try using an older version of GAIM for now. I also noticed a new release of GAIM came out today so you might want to consider upgrading to solve the problem.


  • AOL is not shutting off the community, they are supporting it, there is an official AIM client for linux, hell it was even posted on /. a few weeks ago.

    What really makes me mad at the /. crowd is that you don't just want people to play nice, you want them to play by your rules. "Open all servers to any kind of access we want" The truth is, the IM servers are theirs, if they wanted to shut out the linux community, then that is their perogative, but they have not, they have a client for you to use, you don't want to use their client, fine, you don't use their servers.

    IM is popular because it is nearly ubiquitous, and AOL made it that way, if you want to have a competing Open Source messaging system, go for it, just don't expect to see everyone you know on it. If you want to talk to those people, you need AIM to connected to AOL's servers. Its really *QUITE* fair.

    Stop Your whinning.

    flames may be trashed before sending them my way, because they will end up there once they get here anyway, so save the bandwidth, type up your complaints calling me a moron or whatever and
    file it in /dev/null

    I think....therefore I am
  • by reptilian ( 75755 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:20AM (#788184)
    Yes, it's their right. But it is also our right, as consumers and users of their technology, to complain. Is there something wrong with that? Do we have to accept silently everything we don't like from money-grubbing corporations because 'it's their right' to screw us over? Well, that seems to be their party line and you're buying it. We have a right to demand standards and openness, and yes, they have a right to refuse. That's capitalism... they give us what we want or we find it somewhere else.
  • Why did AIM/ICQ decide to use a centralized database? If you use that design and you have a few million members, of course you're going to have growing pains. Of course you're going to need an insane machine to handle the traffic.

    But look at the Email or WWW. THese are decentralized systems and thus can handle the load very easily. They distribute out the overhead to thousands of hosts. Or look at versus the clones.

    The reason that AIM/ICQ are centralized and require a big machine is because they designed that way. They were designed so that they had a common and fixed chokepoint that the corporations cound control and exploit.

    Design it differently: Design a protocol where a user has a name of and all messages are sent to that host automatically for that user. THat way you can decentralize it and handle hundreds of millions of users and billions of messages. It worked for email, where people send megabyte powerpoint presentations, it'll work for ICQ where people wrote 4 line messages.

  • About time to embrace EveryBuddy?? It has had problems in the past, and I don't currently use it since everyone I know uses AIM, but it seems to be a great solution at least for Linux users...why not use the same app to connect to all of the IM systems, when a new one pops up, just add that to the list. Granted this doesn't solve the problem if AOL or any of the others decided to shut down their service completely or deny access from unknown clients......
  • Apparently unauthorized software means Gaim and other Linux clones. It doesn't seem to extend to commercial software, because, as of this morning, my connection is still accepted using Sametime Connect (Lotus' messenging client, which works both with Lotus' own messenging protocol and AIM).

    At first AOL's action seemed more than a little hypocritical to me in light of this, but then I noticed that, because of the presence of the actual AIM icon on the GUI, there must have been some sort of licensing fee paid to AOL by Lotus.

    So I guess AOL just wants those licensing fees. I'm not saying this is a smart move on their part - there's plenty of ways to make money off the service without restricting the open clients.

  • Haha, you're kidding, right? It's true that AOL members get spammed all the time with e-mail and ads, but I have almost never received spam in the years that I've been using AIM. ICQ, on the other hand, publishes your profile data on a web site [], so that any halfway-intelligent person can write a script to check which User ID's are valid. There was a time when I would receive at least five or six "Check out this porn site!" messages a day on ICQ. Now I only receive that many per week.

    ICQ is a piece of shit. Its official clients are buggy, feature-bloated, and even less standards-compliant than AOL's software. The only reason I use it is because I have some friends who still insist on using it. Everybuddy [] manages to trim most of the fat, fortunately.
  • I don't know about you, but my take is that if you are against third party software then you're against making a standard.

    Conclusions made here ... AOL is full of it, they want to make sure that they aren't next on the Monopoly lawsuit list and they'll blow all kinds of smoke and whistles to make it look like they're for the community.

    AOL wants to get on my side ... they'll release the OSCAR protocol, not just TOC.

  • Who does AOL think they are? Well, they built and are supporting a successful IM network. It's theirs, and they let you use it for free. So I think they can dictate a *few* things. Like what software to use on it.

    You don't like it, use Jabber []. Set up a server, promote it, spend your money on it, and get my grandma to use it.

  • one of my roommates is a aol connectivity programmer here in reston. he told me the real issue is not access to their network. it's that all packets transmitted on the aol network have a copyright inside the packet. so in effect everytime an unauthorized client attaches to their network they are perpetrating copyright infringement because of the transmitted packets.

    this apparently is the reason nobody has really tried to ip spoof the aol network. besides the fact that all aol packets for clients are b-class private and all internal packets are a-class private net addresses. the spoofer would not only be facing the hacking charges but aol would dump enormous copyright charges against them.
  • by cduffy ( 652 ) <> on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:25AM (#788228)
    There are lots of *nix versions of ICQ. However, it sucks too. Let me count (a few of) the ways...

    ICQ transmits your passwords plaintext.

    Messages are easily spoofable.

    There's no third-party extensability.

    You can't run your own server (at least, not and communicate with the rest of the world).

    There's no support for encrypted or signed messages.

    And finally, it's controlled by a commercial entity. Don't want these things? Use jabber ( Jabber is actually an XML-based protocol, so there are lots of differenct clients which conform. Since it's largely serverside, new clients (and clients for different platforms) are easy to write, and once a client has stabilized it very rarely needs upgrading (even to add features like ICQ compatability -- it's all done serverside).

    Try Jabber. You'll like it. And if you don't, come back in 6 months and try it again.
  • So, use ICQ! Check out don't think it would be hard to write a version for *nix...

    Already been done. Check out Licq, Micq, GnomeICU, and a host of others, as well as (he said, modestly) the Jabber transport for ICQ.

    Slightly off-topic comment to the "I don't think it would be hard..." remark: ICQ isn't a particularly easy protocol. It uses a combination of client-server UDP and peer-peer TCP that's tricky to get right. That also means that it's tough for one process to manage lots of ICQ connections, which is one of the reasons I'm rewriting icq-t...


  • AIM also includes advertising. Clients from other vendors do not have the advertising (I use Yahoo). If AOL allowed other vendors into their servers, they won't get the ad $$$ they are used to.

  • by anacron ( 85469 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:27AM (#788234)
    There are two AIM servers. One is called Oscar and one is called TOC. AIM, and the AOL client software use TOC. The other one, Oscar, is "available" to the world. If AOL really really wanted to shut down 3rd part AIM clients, they'd have to shut down Oscar. This is not what they did.

    They just started looking for a client string in the network protocol. This is similar to the HTTP request header, or the MP3 stream ACK, or whatever. Find a copy of QuckBuddy (AOL's Java client), or if you're developing a client, change the name of the connect string so Oscar thinks it's getting a valid client.

  • Sorry for the OT, but you may be interested in checking out Jabber []. It's a multi-platform, open-sourced XML based IM protocol which can talk to ICQ, AOL, Yahoo, MSN, IRC networks and potentially much, much more.

    The current release is about stable enough for daily use, IMHO...


  • You are absolutely right, I didn't even consider that aspect of it. But a simple licensing agreement saying, you get access to our herd if and only if you display our ads. That would be a difficult plum to turn down for a business that is trying to legitimately serve the internet community as a whole.

    Here's to hoping AIM dies a horrible heat death and AOL users never realize there is a world beyond the AOL servers.

  • AOL's IM Money-making Strategy

    1) Ads - bombard users with ads for "Free AOL" and get more sheep to sign up for the online service priced at least $5 more than it's competitors. Later, they can sell ads to outside companies - with the promise of reaching millions of eyes.

    2) Mindshare - The more people that use it, the more people that associate AOL with IM. This is an asset that shareholders like. Later they can start charging a fee (probably when micropayments take off) and figure they can make BOATLOADS of money.
  • Last night, I was chatting on AIM with my girlfriend, when she stopped receiving messages. Well, ok, I'd been chatting earlier, and then she sent me a message, and I replied, but she never got it. I tried for an hour and 10 minutes, but she never got any messages. At that point she went to sleep.

    This morning I was able to talk to her with Gaim, though.

    Weird, eh? It looked to me like I was sending messages. No errors, but they just didn't get through.

    I'm using v0.9.20.
  • ICQ is completly owned by AOL.

    *Insert sound of bubble bursting*


  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:28AM (#788261)
    AOL is by no means the only game in town when it comes to instant messaging.

    If you want a IM provider that plays nice with linux, FreeBSD, MacOs and Windows, try Yahoo. I have been using their client for a few months on all of the above platforms and I'm very satisfied.

    You have a choice, you don't need to feed the beast.

  • I believe that the buffer overflow allows you to execute arbitrary code on the client. They could give you code to run that does a checksum on the executable for example.
  • by Temporal ( 96070 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:43AM (#788265) Journal

    GAIM has used TOC since it started.

    I am currently on AOL through GAIM using TOC and it works fine.

    The reason why many clients are trying to support OSCAR (GAIM included) is because TOC cannot do everything that OSCAR can. For example, I can't send files to people (although I can receive them). Also, I can't seem to check away messages without actually sending the person a message and getting a reply (though maybe I'm just stupid there). There is a huge list of features that just don't work over TOC.


  • by hatless ( 8275 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:43AM (#788266)
    God forbid AOL be allowed to collect ad revenue from an instant-messaging service that runs on millions of dollars worth of equipment. Instant messaging is only "cheap" and "easy" to implement when you have a few thousand users.

    This is one case where GPL'ed software isn't going to win out for at least a few years. Right now, a large IM system requires massive, massively-parallel directory and routing services, which require massive databases (read: not MySQL or Postgres 7) and massive servers with fast interconnect and low latency.

    All of this costs money. If you open the protocol and the servers to all comers, where does that money come from? The GAIM team could build in support for AOL's ads, but the GPL would allow for patched or forked versions that strip out the ads. So it wouldn't do AOL any good to ask the GAIM team to support its ads.

    For a bunch of Microsoft-skeptics, Slashdot readers are mighty easily swayed by Microsoft's PR spin on this. AOL isn't being anti-competitive by blocking 3rd-party clients. They're protecting a revenue stream that pays (they hope) for dozens of racks of expensive servers and millions of dollars in database licenses.Microsoft and Yahoo aren't fighting for freedom. They're fighting to convince naive courts that they have a "right" to strip out AOL's ads--on a service AOL is paying for in its entirety--and replace them with their own ads. If it goes to arbitration and MS and Yahoo are told they can make AIM clients as long as they give AOL's ads and ad-reporting mechanisms clear passage, you'll see MS and Yahoo lose interest in the whole idea mighty quickly indeed.

    Massive peer-to-peer systems without central servers are a tough thing to do right now. Just ask the folks at Napster and the other filesharing projects. All of them are running clusters of independent servers. Sign on to Napster twice, and you'll see two sets of users and files.

    When an equally massive, fully-distributed scheme for instant message routing and directory services becomes viable, those expensive central servers can go away, and so can the need for massive revenue. Seems to me something could be cobbled together out of a stripped-down version of OpenLDAP and dynamic DNS projects, so that any of your devices that are connected report their presence, and the lookups get farmed out over zillions of LDAP servers doing referrals.

    By the time this happens, of course, text-based instant messaging may well be fading out in favor of IP telephony and videoconferencing, both of which all of the instant-messaging players are rolling into their clients as fast as they can.
  • by v4mpyr ( 185039 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:44AM (#788270)
    Right here [].

    Ok, so it's not "official" per se - but it's the best client out there. Unlike gaim it only needs tk/tcl to run so it will work on Solaris/BSD/Linux/Windoze/...
  • I just connected to AOL IM via gaim just fine with version gaim-0.9.20-0. I don't see what the big deal is.

  • The server is stable enough, but there are no good clients yet. Gabber may be good, but I don't use Gnome. Jarl makes it rather difficult to create a new account.

    There are, fortunately, a few libs, though they take some finding. Net::Jabber is in CPAN, but not on the sourceforge page. Jabberoo is available on its homepage, but not its sourceforge page nor as a download from [], ostensibly the development center. The dev doesn't appear to be terribly coordinated, though, judging by the traffic on the dev mailing list and the info available on the website.

    There are a couple of Python modules available.. sorta.. but no documentation whatsoever.

    There's Jabberbeans, for Java. I don't know anything about the state of that.

    So is anyone actually using Jabber? What client are you using?
  • If your TOC-based AIM client can't send files to other AIM users, try sending them via industry-standard HTTP with an AIM addon called Apache Server []. Now available for Windows 9x and NT.
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! []
  • by viking099 ( 70446 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:04AM (#788289)
    I don't get it... AOL and Time Warner are trying to hook up, and realistically, they should be playing nice. I mean, couldn't this be seen as "Anticompetive"? AOL pretty much owns the IM market with IC and AIM, if they keep shutting out the community, and keep denying scoffing at standards, won't that look bad?
    Of course, it's not like this will keep your friendly neighborhood hacker from releasing a patch to fix things...
  • AOL is the *default* choice of internet provider for most people who buy computers these days. And they do a great job of making it so simple that most of their customers don't think there is any other way. Saying "AOL sucks. Get a real ISP." doesn't work. All I have to do is show an AOL user Outlook Express. While not the best e-mail client, it is far far better than AOL's e-mail. "You mean it automatically saves the messages on my computer? They don't get deleted after two weeks?" and so on.

    Many many people have enough ability to use dial-up networking and configure Outlook or Eudora or whatever, and use ICQ. Once they see that life without AOL is actually better, they will switch. But it means you might have to take the time to educate someone a bit. Help them out. Once people with AOL feel "closed off" to their friends without it, there will be the demand from AOL's own customer base to implement access. They don't care about you on the outside. AOL doesn't win many customers from other ISP's, so you're not and never will be an AOL user. But they care about losing their existing customers. Once their users are ticked because their friends can't talk to them through IM, they will make AOL give in. AOL does listen to it's customers. They just don't listen to you. So make their customers do the work.

    The truth is out th- oh, wait, here is is...

  • After scanning the messages in response to the report, it's all very, well "who cares" with few exceptions. No crying here, and no surprise either.

    But you're right - as long as we keep trying to piggyback on corporate shoulders, we'll always get bucked sooner or later. Hit up Jabber for IM. Use Vorbis instead of MP3. Use Icecast instead of Shoutcast. While it wasn't true a little while ago, there are now quality alternatives to a lot of the stuff we get used to that don't carry the weight and consequances of corporate decision-making. I used AIM progs to communicate with a pal. Now he'll communicate with me using Jabber. Big deal. No loss, and big gain - as long as these companies keep doing what they're doing, the Open Souce alternatives are going to win and there will come a time when these corporate companies are going to be all alone with no one to harrass... So, hurray AOL. Thanks for giving me the motivation to use Free (as in Free Speach) alternatives to your pathetic services...

  • Greetings!

    There's an alternative to avoid the banner ads: Use the Java version of AIM. That's what I use on all my boxes because it works great under *NIX, Windoze, and Mac.

    Check the link out at: []. You can use this client with your existing AIM account, or you can create a new one and skip the software download step.


  • AOL doesn't seem like the "bad guy" in this case to me. AIM allows people to send instant messages over AOL, which was previously a proprietary service provided to AOL members. It's their servers and internal software which you're relying upon for AIM to work. They can keep this supported by having their banner adds and "AOL 5.0 free!" adds (Like we don't get enough coasters and free disks with this on it already...).

    I'm not trying to seem like an asshole here, but I doubt slashdot would appreciate it if someone came up with a way to mirror and allow posting of all their content without the banner adds to pay for the servers and bandwidth. (Yes, I'm aware one can simply use lynx, or turn off graphics, but the idea is still the same).

    I personally love the AIM software. It allows you to communicate with AOL users cleanly and easily, and was what I needed to convince a family member to get off AOL and onto a generic local ISP.

    AOL has provided this service to the public, which you would otherwise be paying $10/month for, for free. In return they request that you put up with some small banner adds. Doesn't seem like that big of a trade-off. And while I realize that the Linux version is still greatly lacking, it's understandable that they'd like to have money to support their expenses for the service that they're providing.

    This kind of goes back to the discussion awhile ago on the EverQuest emulator. Verant spent the time, money, and effort, to develop their client and all the artwork, models, textures, and maps, with the intent that they would be used for their 10$/month game.

    While I agree this issue is somewhat debatable, I don't think AOL deserves the bashing that it's going to recieve for this. THEY are the ones who are paying for this, not you.
  • i'm using their official software under windows with no ads... just comment out all lines in "aim.odl" that say "load_ocm advert required"
  • by Pete Jackson ( 27253 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:05AM (#788313) Homepage
    From AOL's Open IM announcement [] site:

    America Online is committed to extending the benefits of instant messaging technology to as many consumers as possible.

    This wouldn't annoy me so much if they didn't keep flip-flopping on their strategy. I suppose that since AIM won't make them any money, they're focusing on brand dilution issues instead.

  • I'm completely sure. I talked to other people. I got a message from here, then I sent a bunch, then I got another message, then she signed off.

    I'm figuring it was an AIM bug myself. I had someone not receive a message again yesterday. They were disconnected from the network (physically), but not from AIM.
  • An open standard is exactly what Jabber is.

    There's no one official Jabber client. You write your own client, it conforms to the standard, it's a Jabber client. Microsoft makes an IM client that conforms to the protocol spec? It's a Jabber client, and every bit as legitimate as everyone else's.

    However, Microsoft can also go ahead and finish their current IM-standardization efforts -- when the RFC that they (and AOL, and whoever else) are working on is released, Jabber will add support for that too -- server side, though, so it will work with existing Jabber clients as soon as the server is updated. Nifty, no?
  • by cduffy ( 652 )
    Oh, you can get around it. May require a little ingenuity, though.

    Let's say you run your own Jabber server outside the company firewall, and use ssh's tunneling support (one nice easy way).

    If your company doesn't permit outgoing ssh connections, their sysadmin-types need a talking-to.
  • by phil reed ( 626 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:08AM (#788326) Homepage
    It's not that simple. At least one version of AOL Instant Messenger used a deliberate buffer overflow that the AOL servers checked for. No buffer overflow - non-AOL client.

  • by mholve ( 1101 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:08AM (#788327) Homepage
    I'm using a freshly updated GAIM 0.10.0 right now, no problems...
  • I appologize for not mentioning that I already use it. .. thanks for the suggestion, however, Rob, I'll pass it on to somebody else more needy than I. :-)
  • by Refrag ( 145266 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:08AM (#788329) Homepage
    It's their infrastructure, they can decide who gets to use the service and who doesn't. That's the end of it! Linux users shouldn't expect to be able to use AOL Instant Messenger (or its infrastructure) until after AOL for Linux has been released. (AOLinux?)

  • struct client_info_s info = {"AOL Instant Messenger (SM), version 4.1.2010/WIN32", 4, 30, 3141, "us",
    "en", 0x0004, 0x0001, 0x055};
  • by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:53AM (#788340) Journal
    I have in my hand the response from the geek community in response to this... Nuts.

    Do you often have your nuts in your hand?


    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
  • ::looks at GAIM::
    ::looks at Slashdot article::
    ::looks at GAIM::
    ::signs off::
    ::signs on::
    ::looks at Slashdot article::
    ::looks at GAIM::
    ::receives message through AIM::

    Err... is anyone here actually having problems? Anyone? Please speak up if so. (I am not having any trouble at all.)

    For the record, I am connecting through TOC.


  • by Luminous ( 192747 ) on Monday September 11, 2000 @07:10AM (#788351) Journal
    It is their service and they have the right to do this, but we, as observers to stupidity, get to comment on the stupidity.

    With the proliferation of many different messenger systems, all those AIMers are going to be cut off from their friends who use MSN/Yahoo/ICQ. The motivation to use AIM diminishes as other messengers take off. So instead of AOL joining the community at large, they are creating a substantial, yet isolated community. It is a stupid mistake in the issue of a greater diverse internet. A smart move in the issue of keeping a captive audience. But in the end, they are just shooting themselves in the foot because if you are using AOL, you really don't need AIM to communicate to other AOLers but you will need another messenger to chat with your friends on MSN.

    AOL just has a large enough ego to think these companies are clamoring to gain access to their herd of people. That may be partially true, but I believe it is more about these other applications trying to give their users as much versatility as possible, something AOL should think about.

A bug in the code is worth two in the documentation.