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America Online

AOL May Be Forced To Open AIM 226

bearclaw writes: "Apparently, AOL might have to open up their IM protocal, according to a CNN article. The FCC seems to be concerned about their 90% IM dominance. Imagine that." This has been rumored several times before, with no action from the government. Meanwhile, AIM continues to dominate the scene.
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AOL May Be Forced To open AIM

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  • It is as much a communications protocol as AM or FM radio. That puts it under the regulatory power of the FCC and their equivalents in other countries. It is their job to set communications standards, something that they have been extremely lax on for the last 20 years.

    All communications over the internet intended for the general public should be free and open standards even if the exact source code of a given program isn't free. This goes for RealPlayer and Winblows Media Player as well as AIM and their ilk.

    Just because the FCC, etc. has refused to require open communications standards in the past doesn't mean that they won't require it in the future. I think this is long overdue.

    Today AIM, tomorrow WMP and RealPlayer!

  • I can predict what might happen if the AIM protocol was opened to the entire world:

    1:Numerous copies of IM proggies float around on the 'Net, some with potentional back doors to root your system.
    2:The IM "space" will become a ghastly mess, with poor implementations bringing the entire system to a crawl.
    3:A whole new level of Spam: IM Spam.

    Do we IM users want this? All I want to do is just start up AIM, logon, and IM someone without any problems. Not signon->receive-a-flood-of-IM's-from-which-you-hav e-no-escape->time-to-get-a -new-screen-name

    Sig protection fault, restart to display sig

  • Microsoft has well over 90% market share in the OS market (a much more important market), and I haven't heard the FCC say a goddamn thing to them about any of their dominant protocols and formats.

    Someone already pointed out that the FCC looks at communications/media deals and has nothing to do with Microsoft.

    But just as important is that the US gov't has much more leverage over a merger deal than over a non-merging company. Special laws give federal agencies abilities to challenge mergers in court. To avoid the costly court challenge, the companies (here AOL/Time) will negotiate with the Feds to come to terms on a deal.

  • Does anyone have some links to the real comparisons of usage of the various IM's? If they're simply counting "registered users" then that isn't really good enough. I've registered several times to try out new versions of AIM (and the MS one, and I think I've a few on novell's InstantME - AIM by another name I think) but I continue to use ICQ. I'm sure AIM has some presence in the IM area but I can't believe that they are most dominant. Something like number of users within w week/month using it or number of messages in a period would be good

    I'm also on the download.com [cnet.com] mail list which gives out the top 10 downloads each week. ICQ has been in the top few each week for well over a year - AIM just doesn't feature. There's no way AIM is the most common.

  • yer.. I'll buy that conspiracy.
  • look at everybuddy (http://www.everybuddy.com) for an IM program that can chat on AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and ICQ. You need an acocunt on each, but you have one program that does all four.
  • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @11:57AM (#781709) Journal
    Keep in mind that even though AOL *MAY HAVE* a monopoly, it does not mean that it is an *illegal monopoly*. It is not illegal in the U.S. to simple have a monopoly on a market; it's the using of certain practices to gain a monopoly, or to abuse a monopoly position, that are illegal.

    Unless AOL has done this, then the DoJ has no power here.

  • You know what's even funnier? The list of rivals behind the Microsoft case. Netscape or Sun, anyone? It seems that the new trend in Silicon Valley is just to whine, bitch, and complain to government if you get beat in the competitive market.
  • I think the way AOL is detecting unproper use of their servers is by exploiting a bug in their own clients. I use GAIM a lot, and I liked the Oscar protocol support, so when it was shutdown, my roommate and I fired up the old packet sniffer... AOL sends out some very odd looking large packets right before it IMs you and kicks you off the network. We beleive that the Win32 client has a bug where those large packets result in a buffer overflow, and the client ignores the garbage packets, while in the reverse engineered version, the client response is basically, "huh? what in the world was that??" and when AOL sees that, it kicks you off.. probably a few more weeks of packet sniffing...we might have a patch ready :)
    ---
  • Ever heard of IRC? Not quite the IM-stle of today, but A LOT more useful and functional. TALK was a part of UNIX back in the 70's and 80's. I say let AOLers rot. I've been converting my friends to the benefits of IRC, even those who aren't computer literate. All it takes is a little initiative and more than 2 brain cells to understand it. I'm hoping to leave the whole modern IM world behind and get back to real discussions.
  • Exactly how much control is the government supposed to have when it comes to regulating software? So lets say for example I have a website thats getting 3 million visits/day can the government step in and tell me to give other websites my traffic? I think not, so why should AIM be any different?
  • Does that make any sense? IF you don't like them and they suck and they should drop off the face of the planet and their software is aweful and people who use AOL are too dumb to breathe, which is the overwhelming sentiment around here, why is anyone at all irked that they don't like 3rd parties using their services?

    Seems like they invented it (just AIM, not the idea of messaging), they bankroll it, the promote, and they support it... and most everyone here hates them, so why not just steer the two trains away from each others paths? Or what happens if AOL is forced to open AIM to all comers, so they decide to "retaliate" by giving AOLer's push button access to IRC? :)

    Won't you all just love AOL even more then?
  • Because most people are too stupid to know how to use IRC.
  • by Bookwyrm ( 3535 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @11:10AM (#781716)
    By the very nature a corporation is a result of government regulation on a free market. A corporation is an artificial entity created by the government, through regulations and laws.

    A business that goes crying to the government, "Whaa! The *real* free market is too scary to compete in! Let me incorporate! Protect me!" has little business complaining to the self-same government about being regulated for using the advantages of incorporation that are government regulated and government enforced and otherwise are government meddling in the balance of the market place.

    I do not see how a free market should involve the idea of government-created artificial entities competing against individuals.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    A couple of comments here ...

    This would not prevent such things as secure eCommerce or on-line banking - things that require secure protocols. But these things are private, not for the public at large.

    Secret protocols != secure protocols

    Secret protocols == protocols of UNKNOWN security.

    There are many secure protocols that are completely publicly documented. ssl for one.
  • Ok well if we convert to that reference frame, and agree that AOL's servers won't be 'opened', just the protocol, the issue now becomes whether it's fair to require AOL to open the protocol considering they invested the resources to develop the protocol and so on. THIS IS a debatable open source question which I would and do agree to see both sides on, of course. As with everything in the open source movement, it's a very complex issue if you are truly unbiased and not over-zealous or selfish, thus not solvable in a message board thread. Let's all put this into our 'backpack' of issues to consider through time.
  • Did it ever occur to you that they have a monopoly on instant messaging because they invented it?

    I don't think they did invent it, though. Wasn't ICQ around before AIM? Even though AOL owns ICQ now, Mirabilis created it...

  • I think you are completely wrong here.

    First, FCC regualted phone companies because they held (and still do hold ) a monopoly over interstate communications. Thats why they have power over them.

    The FCC should have no jurisdication over the internet at all. None. Zero. And let me tell you why from a pratical point of view.

    List to me all the branches of government you have personally had a good experience with. Keep going. I want them all. If you are like most people your list is entirely empty or small. Anything the government can do can be done much better by the private sector (with a few notable exceptions, the internet not being one of them).

    Another thing you mentioned is forcing standards open to allow alternative OS's access. This is not the role of government. The Internet is not the governments domain. They need to realize it - you do to. Think how long it takes for government to do anything. Imagine now that a new protocol is designed. Do you want it take months and months of protracted negotions between competitors to get the product to the market? I dont. And you shouldnt. If the government has control over protocols, it will also be that much easier for them mess with the 'Net. Imagine if Napster or GNUtella developers wanted to make an ew protocol (which they did). Do you think the government would approve and make it a standard? No, the Net would be an offical Corporate lap-dog then. Individuals who like tool around on the net, such as myself, would have no voice.

    The MPAA and RIAA could force protocls that track and log everything, and force secure music distro and what not. Personally developed protocls based on IP or TCP/IP would be gone, because who want to go the trouble of it getting it standardized by the government.

    Finally, you say that if the content is intended for the general public, especially webpages, that no MS extensions should be allowed. Why? To force standards compliance? That is not the governments job. MS can decided this on there own. And individuals can decide to use IE and see MS content or not. Its Just That Simple. Choice. ITs a great thing. ANd it leads to freedom. Which is a good thing.

  • So all those icq people count towards the AOL numbers.
  • Gaim may be open source but the protocol that it uses isn't. We know everything about the toc protocol but it is very limited to what it can do. The windows clients use the oscar protocol and it is a lot better but aol never released how oscar works. It has been reverse engineered to a degree and mostly works now with gaim but now aol has blocked clients other than its own using oscar so we really haven't gotten anywhere. My point is that we could gain a lot from having this opened up.
  • Maby this way I could have one less anoying IM program runing on my computer because MS IM can use AOL IM Like they did in the first place.
  • demand that the condom dominance by Trojan come to a halt?

    No pun intended there I'm sure.
  • Whatever happened to ICQ? It's what I use, it's what my friends use. I know there's well over 70,000,000 numbers issued, however many are active is anyone's guess, but still, 90% of the market is AOLIM? That's sickening among other things considering the worthlessness of AIM.
    ---
    www.stallman.org is running Apache/1.3.6 (Unix) on FreeBSD
  • Huh. It all makes sense now. That's why ya ask questions. :-)

    As for the questions you raise, I'm stumped. I can't imagine why AOL wouldn't want to integrate those two products.
  • ... having the goverment dictate the success of one's product?

    What next? are they going to demand that the condom dominance by Trojan come to a halt?
  • When I see RF frequencies on a giant wooden spool, then I'll agree that the FCC can regulate it.

    Oh, wait a minute...


    Anyway, I see what you're getting at. But I don't see any difference between mandating interoperability of IM protocols and mandating interoperability of telephone networks.

    I think you're afraid of allowing the FCC to put any restrictions on the contents of a pipe for fear that they'll start saying things like "you can't send THOSE bits over those wires". I see forced-IM-interoperability as different:

    • Motive: force interopability
    • Number of people that benefit: tons
    • Terms: narrow and concrete (THIS protocol, THIS environment, etc...)
    • Complexity: simple terms
    • Length of time until FCC will have to make another similar mandate: 2 years
    Because of all this, each such mandate will be very public and can easily be understood, and can be debated in public. If the FCC starts making vague mandates against small companies and it only benefits 5 people in unpredictiable ways, then you can start getting worried that they might pull some funny stuff. Right now, each mandate is too visible for a long period of time to let anything happen without it being glaringly obvious to a lot of people.
    --
  • The Government (aka, the Man ) wants to do the same thing to Microsoft. Someone is going to point to Gaim [marko.net] or any other ones, and life will go on.

    I think everyone should be left alone. AOL has brought people to the Internet. Face it. Most of you (myself included) would be out of a job, had AOL not brought millions of people to the Internet using their AOL Chat programs and ideas. Hell, take it another step forward, and watch me get marked down to flaimbait / offtopic / whatever, but had Microsoft not created a OS for stupid idiots, then AOL would not have created a system to allow them to communicate, which would bring hundreds of thousands of businesses to the Internet, looking for any extra money.

    Some say porn built the current Internet, but I think AOL had a bigger hand: they provided an easy way for people to chat.

  • Think about this - every ephemeral instant message transits Northern Virginia.

    Actually, in the case of ICQ, only offline messages are sent via the server.
    If a user is online, messages are sent directly peer-peer (assuming the client/clone supports it).

    As well, there is a degree of encryption on the newer protocols, but of course this is pretty limited and already cracked.
  • We would certainly benefit by the better protocol... But it is after all, CHAT... I'm not too worried about the efficiency of my "hey, you eat lunch yet?" messages... :)

    AOL did release interoperability specs, which is a start. I wouldn't expect them to give out all the secrets. That'd be bad business.

  • I was thinking could AOL have avoided this just by not buying ICQ?

    Why did AOL buy ICQ anyway?

    Maybe they bought them just to make sure Microsoft didn't

  • While I dont care for AOL (though i DO use AIM), I hae the government again putting their nose where it doesnt belong... in the business world. I hate M$, hope they evaporate/disappear soon (however unlikely) but the gov't still doesnt belong in their face... let the market shoot them down (nothing lasts forever). The people that support the DoJ in their persecution of M$ are like the religeous in-your-face people that are insecure about their beliefes, in this case insecure that they dont REALLY believe Linux or what not CAN defeat M$. I have faith it will, soon enough... I am an American and I vote Libertarian.

    ---

  • Question 1:

    How is it that the FCC or the DoJ or anyone else for that matter can use the Merger of AOL/TW to require the release/breakup of the AOL dominance? AOL's dominance in IM has _nothing_ to do with TW, nor will it become more or less dominant as the result of the merger. So how can they use the merger as the springboard for this campaign?

    Question 2:

    Does the FCC have any rights to regulate IM? I would only expect the FCC To become involved in merger proposals when communications assets (such as radio/tv stations, etc) are involved.

  • AOL is one of 66 Smart corporations [billionair...orgore.com]which donated over $50k to both the Bush and Gore campaigns. So don't expect any serious constraints on AOL/Time Warner from either of these two would-be prez's.
  • Can't moderate that as flaimbait -- everyone knows that APPLE created the OS for stupid idiots!

    You can mod me flaimbait if you want, but if I had a point it would be that 'user-friendly' OSes and AOL service predated the 'Internet explosion' of the early-mid '90s by several years, so it would be a little specious to claim that Apple, MS, AOL, or any other one company deserves the blame/credit for starting the current trend of everyone being online.
  • Sue your competition for some sort of "infringement" or other bullshit...
  • IIRC, the problem with "Big tobacco" is that they claimed that dangers of smoking (ooooohhh sounds scary) were not proven, even though they knew it was. thus, they were misleading their consumers.

    btw: this settlement helped to secure the "Big tobacco" monopoly by establishing a fund of some sort that ALL tobacco companies (even those who never claimed smoking was all good for you, or who didn't exist then, or who don't exist now) have to pay a big (IIRC, fixed for all) amount of money to. so, smaller companies have to go out of business, because at their level of sales, it drives the cost too high.

    z.
  • That deal, a while back, was because they would be eliminated competition in many many markets. Thats the only time the FCC or government branches should get involved. This is not an issue of competition.

    In the example you cite, or censorship, thats fine. People could then choose MSN Messenger, or Yahoo, or the phone, or IRC, or Hotline, or any other medium to chat. AIM has a big market share, but viable alternatives exist. And futhermore, even if they didnt, I dont think that its an American right to have an IM client. If someone feels strongly we need one - let them develop and pay for it.

    I think you are far off with your points and views. Remember, this is America, where the ultimate right is freedom. Consumers speak with their eyeballs and service. People can get across their point by not using a service or product. That'll do it 99% of the time. If that doesnt help, then maybe the FCC needs to step in. But that should be rare, and not in this case.

  • Who the FUCK moderated this as a troll? I think this post makes a really good point: it's natural, almost unavoidable, for one IM system to have nearly all the market share because the point of IM is to communicate with other people, and you can only do that if everyone is using the same system. I don't know much about economics, but wouldn't this be the kind of thing economists refer to as a "natural monopoly"? Like utility companies? And haven't these companies historically been subject to heavy government regulation?
  • I think you can import your user list from AIM with a script that comes in the root directory of the tarball.


    He who knows not, and knows he knows not is a wise man
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I hate being shut out of the teen chat rooms.

    Now, if only we could find a way to verify someone's age in a chatroom, I'd be much happer.

    P. Naughton
  • Furthermore, you can't see a person's away message by using 'Get Info' or similar means (AIM will make it viewable above a person's profile . . .).
    [SNIP]
    What's the difference in freatures between TOC and the closed protocol, anyway? Does anyone know? I've never seen the two compared. . . though I guess I haven't looked too hard, either . . .


    viewing the away message is a function of the Oscar protocol, not the TOC protocol. Oscar also had support for buddy icons, and numerous other features found lacking in TOC clients. GAIM has experimental support the Oscar in the last few releases, but it is unusable at the moment due to unauthorized clients being blocked so we are stuck with the TOC protocol--for now.
    ---

  • Use GAIM [marko.net] instead! It's Open Source and works great!
  • So what if AIM has 90% of the market. There are plenty of good competitors available if people really wanted to use them. It's not like AOL is now going to crank up the price of AIM and milk all their customers.

    The only valid argument I could see is if they gave away AIM just to drive a competitor out of business. Maybe my memory is going, but I don't recall anyone charging for instant messaging software, even ICQ.

    One thing I think AOL should do is offer clients for other OSs, just to finally cut off that criticism. Heck, they could even just agree to distribute one of the open ones.

  • It's their damn program, and they should be able to do what they want with it. Jesus H. Christ.

    The government should have NO BUSINESS in this.

    (and as a note -- I would like to see all chat programs using 1 protocol, but still -- the government forcing people to open it is WRONG. It is their program.)
  • AOL owns ICQ.
  • by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @12:11PM (#781748) Journal
    AOL has a "monopoly" on the instant messaging market. In other words, they can and will stifle future development of IM products BECAUSE they dominate.

    You're confused. Monopolies are not illegal, and they can't be broken unless the corporation with the monopoly poses a significant barrier to entry. There are plenty of other successful clients out there. AOL is not preventing these in any way from coming out (unlike Microsoft, for example, who used squeeze tactics on OEM's to prevent the spread of alternative OS's... among other things).

    AOL should be allowed to prevent competing companies from using THEIR resources. Do I think it's in their best interest? Not really, but it's not up to me, or you, or even the FCC.

    It's the RIGHT thing to do to tell them to open up and follow a standard so that all can communicate.

    No, the "right" thing to do is to let the market dictate until such time as AOL breaks an anti-trust law. Nothing is preventing a better IM client (or protocol) from taking over AOL's turf. If that separate userbase gets big enough, AOL will do the common sense thing of making their client compatible, as a service to their users.

    It's not like they're preventing you from talking to certain people... use a different client or send them an email, or meet on IRC, or call them on the phone, or write them a letter.

    I think AOL *should* open up the spec, but I'd rather have the market dictate it than the government... at least until such time as AOL breaks an anti-trust law.

    -thomas


    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
  • You just need to download the AIM applet of the AOL site and decompile the java classes. They haven't even used a confuscator on the code ;-)

    If someone wrote a server to go with it, you could set up your local AIM network (I intend to do that, but haven't the time right now)

    The applet can be found at :http://toc.oscar.aol.com/tic.html [aol.com]
  • by zpengo ( 99887 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:22AM (#781751) Homepage
    You know, the whole IM wars thing is getting pretty silly. I stopped IMing (w/ ICQ, the breakfast of champions) a few months ago, and haven't really missed it. Sure, it's more convenient for some people, but dammit is e-mail *really* so hard that you can't just shoot of a message?

    I think it's the whole "chat" mentality that the Internet is still trying to outgrow. Once people start using the net for communication instead of "Hi" "Hi" "How are you?" "Fine. You?" "Great." "Well....see ya!", the world will start to change.

  • by mikefoley ( 51521 ) <mike@nOspAM.yelof.com> on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:24AM (#781753) Homepage
    Insightful?? HUH??

    AOL has a "monopoly" on the instant messaging market. In other words, they can and will stifle future development of IM products BECAUSE they dominate.

    It's the RIGHT thing to do to tell them to open up and follow a standard so that all can communicate. This allows anyone, maybe even a Slashdot reader, to come up with a better widget and compete FAIRLY.
  • by BilldaCat ( 19181 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:35AM (#781755) Homepage
    Please show me proof that they have gone and stifled Microsoft's messaging client, Yahoo's messaging client, or any other.
  • by OnceWas ( 187243 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:36AM (#781757)

    Don't dismiss IM so quickly. Have you ever seen kids and preteens using a computer with an Internet connection? The "Hi-Hi-How are you-Fine dialog" you describe is typical kidspeak.

    The kids I have seen using computers LIVE for IM. That ICQ "Uh-Oh" goes off dozens times per evening! If IM had been around way back when, I wouldn't have spent my evenings on the phone, driving my parents crazy.

    Now I use IM as a work tool on a daily basis, communicating with geographically distant colleagues. It's very handy to know who's available to answer a quick question. Email and the phone can't give me that functionality

    The huge prevalence of IM won't wax and wane with the net's maturity. As the kids will eventually grow out of this communications phase, they will be followed by the next wave of soon-to-be pre-teens.

    IMO, IM (eesh - acronymity!) is here to stay, for both societal and practical reasons.

  • Though this is off the orignal topic (and moderators are often overly sensitive about that), it certainly is on topic about this. On the other hand, I will point out that the post above certainly is NOT informative about this issue.

    That said, GAIM has some serious shortfalls, though it also has some very nice features.

    Positives first. I love the auto-logging feature. I like the fact that it allows you to customize your html instead of having everything forcibly converted for you like AIM does (however, it isn't even close to wysiwyg as you type it all in using the tags--I love it, but certainly not everyone does). No space reserved for annoying adverts.

    Negatives. While it does support saving/loading your buddy list to/from a file (necessary, because the list you store on AOL's servers mysteriously disappear quite often), it is unable to import AIM lists (yes, very minor problem, but it makes migrating over harder initially . . .). Furthermore, you can't see a person's away message by using 'Get Info' or similar means (AIM will make it viewable above a person's profile . . .).

    Some of this may have changed recently, but I know that these are some problems I initially had with it. I know that my buddy list that was being stored on AOL's server disappeared a day or two ago. I also know that there hasn't been an exploitable, intentional overflow discovered in GAIM.

    What's the difference in freatures between TOC and the closed protocol, anyway? Does anyone know? I've never seen the two compared. . . though I guess I haven't looked too hard, either . . .

  • When I can see a protocol on a giant wooden spool, I'll agree with you.

    -B
  • Note that the phrase was not "AIM has 90% market share" but rather "AOL ha s90% of the IM market."

    Not sure if you're aware of this or not, but AOL bought ICQ some time ago.

  • The point of the hearings on the AOL/Time Warner deal is to ensure that the combined company, which will be *huge*, doesn't end up with market control of *everything*. It's like the deal that happened awhile back where two phone companies merged and one of them had to sell their cellular business.

    At the moment, they aren't doing horrendously nasty things with AIM but what would you say if the following happened: AOL installs filters on IM (since they controll it) to block all messages that criticize every movie released by Warner Bros.? How many people would notice if they did that? Now you could argue that it's their service, they should be able to block whatever they want, but if there is no other service and no way for anyone to see how IM worked, what would prevent the censorship? Things like this are why the FCC gets involved.

  • Doesn't it make sense that some instant messenger has to be dominant? Think about it this way...

    I don't want to have to use ICQ to talk to Bob, Yahoo Messenger to talk to Frank, and AOL's IM to talk to Sally. It's a pain in the ass. It eats more system resources than necessary and generates too many little icons in my tray.

    What happens is this: I tell Bob and Frank that the AOL messenger is way better than ICQ and Yahoo. Plus, it can sneak around corporate firewalls by allowing you to specify a port, unlike Yahoo's IM. They try it out and like it. They start moving their friends over and pretty soon I uninstall ICQ and Yahoo, because I've got everyone I chat with on the superior IM system.

    Somebody has to have the dominant IM. The fact that AOL is winning this one has nothing to do with the merger. It's just a better IM.
  • Easy solution to that: 'Simply' rewrite the protocol to use a Gnutella-like system of non-centralized relaying. At that point, AOL is only using development resources, not physical resources.
  • by Amokscience ( 86909 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:39AM (#781785) Homepage
    For better or worse what you want will never happen. IM is a gigantic trend that will not die. Besides, for many email is not real-time enough and irc doesn't fit the bill.

    Is the whole pager things silly? Or cell phones? Or PDAs? No, they each have their own places. For some even email is too much. Certainly many people either misuse these things or are overwhelmed, but that's no different than overeating, drinking, or procrstinating.
  • While I'd love to see IM technology converge to a point where the user has the greatest flexibility, I don't see a 90% market share in the instant messaging market as a reason to force AOL to open their system.

    I'd be happy seeing AOL voluntarily open up their protocol but I cannot agree with the FCC enacting any policy requiring AOL to open up their service or network to outside IM users.

    If Microsoft, Yahoo!, or anyone else wants to run the AIM protocol, let them flip the infrastructure/bandwidth bill to do so for their users, just as it is today for an email service.

    (This is coming from a guy who runs a dedicated messaging machine with ICQ, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, and MSN Messenger running.)
  • It is almost as if this IM business is a diversion from the real issue that you have the largest ISP in the USA (AOL in the USA has as many customers as all other USA ISP's combined) joining one of the largest mass-media forces in the USA. AOL is a content provider... Liars meet liars!! And don't get me started on all the problems with mass media [alternativeradio.org]. I don't see how this provides ANY advantage to users, consumers. The more this type of power is collected into smaller administrative spaces, the more control and power these people assume.
  • by Pengo ( 28814 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @12:37PM (#781799) Journal

    I guess that it's a bit unfortunate you do not work in a workgroup environment that is switched on enough to use it properly.

    I love not having to pickup the phone, launch an email client or run up to the the second or third floor of the building to speak to a coligue.

    As an American living in Europe I am quite happy that IMing brings me closer to my friends and family almost on a daily basis w/out shelling out money to the telcos for international phone charges.

    I have not explored 'public' chat rooms w/AOL or ICQ .. but I do believe that it would be an easy way to expand my network of friends as well. (It's doesn't seem to have the politics associated w/IRC.. etc)

    I am excited about any product that brings a bit more humanity and warmth to something traditionally in terms of rich human interaction. For better or worse, IM is here to stay. Be happy you don't have to have Win/* to use it.




    --------------------
  • I use AOL and have turned off Instant Messaging. It's ok if you're just screwing around and someone suddenly wants to chat, but it's a damned nuisance if you're in the middle of something. It's like getting a phone call in the middle of a TV show. I've never installed any IM clients outside of AOL for this very reason. The attraction for anyone besides kids who want to gab with their friends escapes me. Send me an email if you need something. If I'm there, I'll see it; if I'm not, you won't have wasted your time. I guess this means that I don't particularly give a bleep if AOL dominates this arena.

    Ok, I feel better now ...
  • Media being the press? Then the government has no business in there anyway. Here, let me quote from the US Constitution: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/const/bor.html [loc.gov]
    "Amendment I

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

    However, this looks more like the FCC ordering AOL to open up their SERVERS, not their protocol. In which case it still is none of the government's business, even if it is a merger case.

    Visit DC2600 [dc2600.com]
  • It is as much a communications protocl as AM or FM radio.

    No, not really. These are protocols that run on top of the other protocols (namely IP, TCP/IP).

    But thats besides the point. The FCC should and in pratice has little power over the Internet for three reasons.

    1. The FCC governs airwaves because they are a public resource (Supreme Court decision dictates it). Therefore they need to prevent control or domination over this public resource. This is why the FCC exists.

    2. The FCC governs public or quazi-public mediums. The internet is not public. It is a private tool. It was developed by the US government but now is not a tool of the US government. It belongs to no one and at the same time the people who own the hardware that make it go.

    3. The FCC hasnt refused, but they have no jurisdication in the case. Not only because of the 'public resource' nature of their agency but also due to the international aspect of the Internet.



  • When you support real Open Source and/or Free Software, then maybe I'll have sympathy for you as you are stuck with a single vendor and difficult transitions. As it is, there are several free/open solutions to the chat question. IRC being the first one that comes to mind. This would also allow the company to set up approved channels on the server, set bots on the channels, monitor activity, have departmental channels which can be logged and checked for trends/FAQ-making, etc etc-- based on your needs. As it is you are likely sending business-sensitive data out to AOL's server and then back inside the company firewall (unless I've totally got it wrong how AIM works). Your network people are right to eliminate this client. The sooner the better, imho. And I don't see what's wrong with using any peer-to-peer file sharing at work, it's bound to save on the e-mail server, which has to store, log, and hold all those attachments.
  • I posted this in a smaller thread but I think it deserves a little more visibilty. Sorry for the duplicant info.

    Hello, Rob Flynn here, Gaim Author/Maintainer.

    Personally, I think that the FCC should mind their own business. True, I would love to have the protocol opened to me but I would rather it be on AOL's on free will. If the FCC starts forcing other companies to open their protocols then what? AOL does not force AIM on us. If you do not like it, you have many other choices. I do not see an monoply issue here. I believe that if the FCC is going to force AOL to release their protocol information then we should be given access to private government communications information. That's just my opinion, though. And now, to answer some questions.

    Importing AIM lists: The latest version, 0.10.0 (released two days ago), supports importing of gaim, Aim2 and Aim4 buddy lists This should solve the problem of migrating from Windows to Linux.

    As for the issue of not being able to see a persons away message: There's not really much any of us can do here. It's an OSCAR only thing. However, if you run gaim with our currently experimental OSCAR support, it does have the ability to view other's away messages without the need of sending them a message.

    There are a few differences in features between the two protocols. The OSCAR server provides us with many more fun things:

    The ability to rvous request. These requests can be any type of direct connectiong ranging from: file transfering, direct IM, talk, etc. It also allows us to view other user's away messages and allows us to send messages of 8k in size while TOC only supports messages of 2k in size. DirectIM allows messages of unlimited size (I think the limit is like 2gb if you do the math :-P). Oscar also has support for buddy icons. I do not like these but I know many people that do and know that many people have requested this feature.

    Anyways, we do, however, have the ability to receive files from windows users and we can ACCEPT requests from oscar clients. For example, if you are in windows and click 'Get File' on my name, I will receive that request and then can send you a file. Having full oscar support would open up full functionality to us.

    Anywyas, I hope this has cleared up any questions you may have. Take care!

    ---
    Rob Flynn

  • Most, if not all, of the discussion seems to focus on the interoperability at the networking level and the openness/lack thereof of the AIM servers. This is obviously crucial to being able to communicate between services, but I think an important point is being ignored.
    What happens to the interoperability of features and it's effects on innovation once the networks are interconnected? What happens if I'm on ICQ and want to chat with someone on AIM using the IRC-style (where text appears as soon as typed)? What happens when my AIM client wants to send one of these little user-set identifying icons to a friend on ICQ? And how is my AIM going to distinguish between an N/A message and a DND message from ICQ? How about when Company X decides to add a completely original feature to get a niche in the market? How will ICQ handle AIM's talk feature? Sure, we can have something such as W3C establishing standards as with HTML, but do we really want a repeat of the IE and Netscape bungled implementations/proprietary standards/lack of support? Think before you leap.
  • HTTP is an open protocol, but that doesn't mean I can't deny anyone I want from accessing my web server. Judging by the CNN article, they're talking about making AOL open their servers to access by their competitors, not just making the protocol an open standard.

    Of course, the fact that they need to "open access to their servers" in the first place just shows that the system is a hack, not a design, in the first place.

    Are there really so few people who realize how stupid a centralized IM system with a flat namespace is in the first place? Can you imagine if every email on the internet went through some huge central cluster at email.com before getting to you? Why exactly should I need to be identified by ICQ 5551234 (shades of Compuserve) or roystgnr (flashbacks to Prodigy), rather than roystgnr@jabber.com, or (once my employer/university starts running Jabber) by an existing email address?
  • Yes, but have you looked at who's lined up against them?

    #1 on this list (of the article I read) was Micro$oft. What do you suppose their motivation might be, hmm? hmm?

    The irony of Micro$oft wanting someone else to open something up is pretty damn hilarious.

    Vote [dragonswest.com] Naked 2000
  • Hello, Rob Flynn here, Gaim Author/Maintainer.

    I can answer a few of your questions/statements about GAIM.

    Importing AIM lists: The latest version, 0.10.0 (released two days ago), supports importing of gaim, Aim2 and Aim4 buddy lists This should solve the problem of migrating from Windows to Linux.

    As for the issue of not being able to see a persons away message: There's not really much any of us can do here. It's an OSCAR only thing. However, if you run gaim with our currently experimental OSCAR support, it does have the ability to view other's away messages without the need of sending them a message.

    There are a few differences in features between the two protocols. The OSCAR server provides us with many more fun things:

    The ability to rvous request. These requests can be any type of direct connectiong ranging from: file transfering, direct IM, talk, etc. It also allows us to view other user's away messages and allows us to send messages of 8k in size while TOC only supports messages of 2k in size. DirectIM allows messages of unlimited size (I think the limit is like 2gb if you do the math :-P). Oscar also has support for buddy icons. I do not like these but I know many people that do and know that many people have requested this feature.

    Anyways, we do, however, have the ability to receive files from windows users and we can ACCEPT requests from oscar clients. For example, if you are in windows and click 'Get File' on my name, I will receive that request and then can send you a file. Having full oscar support would open up full functionality to us.

    Anywyas, I hope this has cleared up any questions you may have. Take care!

    ---
    Rob Flynn

  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @11:43AM (#781834)
    Opening AOL's IM servers to all clients and comers will ensure that all competitors (duh) use the AIM protocol over AOL's servers.

    Think about this - every ephemeral instant message transits Northern Virginia.

    Law enforcement and intel concerns are driving this one, folks. The last thing the feds want is another decentralized communication protocol - it forces them to lean on too many people to get easy access (*cough*carnivore*cough). "Competition" is a decoy, as should be obvious - opening AOL's servers is only going to guarantee an AOL monopoly on the server/protocol side.

    -Isaac

  • Why would you want to run servers if anyone can use them?

    Put yourself in AOL's shoes. Suddenly you have to let people use your servers and get nothing in return. Will you (a) happily carry on paying for those servers or (b) wait for Microsoft, etc. to produce their own AOL compatible messaging servers and then stop paying for your own now that MS are carrying the load?

    You have to allow people to make money, or they won't play the game.
    _____
  • IIRC, the 90% figure refers to the combined market share of AIM and ICQ. The interesting proposed conditions I read about said that AOL had to open up its IM at the earlier of two times:

    1) Six months after the AOL/TW merger closes.
    2) Whenever AOL deploys technology that allows AIM and ICQ to interoperate.(Under the theory that once you make your own services interoperate, extending that to rival services is not as big a deal, I guess).
  • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:47AM (#781842)
    Umm.. AOL released one of their protocols.

    And why should they open their standards for your businesS? Why? You want something for free.

    AOL licenses this technology to other companies (Earthlink for one). Why not call them and pay them for the information. Why should they GIVE it you? Because you like it? Because its useful? Even more the reason to PAY FOR IT.

    Thats right, some people PAY FOR THINGS these days. You want the benefits of using an AOL developed product or protocl? Then pony up, or use what they give you.

  • The FCC should have *NO* business here, whatsoever. There is nothing that needs regulating.
    We aren't talking about some kind of monoploy.. or some kind of limited medium. There's room for thousands of IM type things out there.
    This isn't even telco, where there is sort of a public-land issue, when it comes to IM, it's a limitless resource.

  • Will they open Oscar, allowing other clients to use all their servers features, or will they make and open a new limited protocol? The way AOL is they would probably make a new, or modified protocol that is not as stable as AIMs (if it's stable anyway), that AIM will still have the most features and will be preferred among the non-AOL haters. (sort of like what AOL does now with TOC, we get TOC, they get Oscar, damn them)

    #----------------------------
    $mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;
  • Exactly. AIM might be big in the USA, home of AOL. But here in Europe, ICQ reigns.

    Oh, wait, AOL owns ICQ also.

  • You don't 'hand over' space. You charge them for it.

    True, the amount you can charge them is set, but you can'tdo that with IM without a drastic change in the protocol.

    And if the protocol is open, people will just get round that.
    _____
  • Would ANYONE care about being able/not able to be messaged at any time by people on AOL?????

    "I jist bot this computar - and I figuerd out how to maek lots of money with it. Jst send $1 to me and ad yoru naem to th botom of the list"

    "WHAT'S THIS PROGRAM DO TEST TEST TEST TEST HELLO"

    "Hey? Where's all the porn?"

    etc

  • by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:24AM (#781852)
    The FCC is opening a dangerous door if they think they have authority over a protocol or applications-layer operation, such as AIM. They regulate raw pipes, not applications or for that matter IP (which is technically "information service", not "telecommunications").

    If AOL's behavior is in some way "anticompetitive", there are other agencies (DoJ, for instance) who do have general say over that matter. And mergers do invite scrutiny. So if there's some specific DoJ question to be answered around their IM networks, then fine. The FCC does have some authority over cable systems, which AOL is trying to buy. But the FCC should NOT consider IM to be theirs to regulate.
  • Why the bloody hell should AOL be forced to allow other firms to use THEIR service resources? Isn't this conflicting with the court's ruling that the meta-auction site (Cannot remember the name.) cannot index eBay's site because it robs eBay of the ability to use it's own resources?

    Well, here's my take on the issue: the AIM network is infrastructure, whereas eBay's listings aren't.

    If you want to run an auction site that competes with eBay, then you can, and eBay can't stop you.

    If you want to provide a competing IM service, on the other hand, you have to use the AIM protocols, because there are already millions of users of the AIM protocols, and they're not likely to switch systems. You're stuck, unless you can access the protocols.

    Protocols in specific, and infrastructure in general, must be made public, or you end up with monopolies that can't be unseated, because you can't compete with them. Example: the number of people who can't change operating systems because they have to edit Microsoft Word files.

  • by adam ( 1231 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:24AM (#781856)
    The difference is that the government is _not_ forcing AOL to open up the protocol by fiat -- they're considering making it a condition of the merger with Time-Warner.

    Seen in that light, it's a little different -- it's not "You have to do this", but "If you're going to become an even larger company with your fingers in this many more pies, you're going to have to open up a little more on the monopolies you've got currently."

    Sounds a lot more reasonable that way. If AOL doesn't want to open up IM, they can just not merge with Time-Warner.

  • So? Why should I have to do anything to gain the same benefits? Instead of saying, "If you incorporate, you get these benefits.", why not just have everyone start off with all the same benefits? Besides I see no problem with corporations gaining these benefits -- if the would stop complaining about the price tag that goes with them (i.e. additional regulation.)

    It is still a case of government regulation in the marketplace, is it not? Is this not the very thing people who want a 'free market' protest against -- the "there is no place for government regulation in the marketplace" attitude?

    Gasp! You are not saying that sometimes government regulation in the marketplace is a good thing, are you? You'll have all the rabid capitalists here reeling in shock!

    Anyways, so why in a "free market" is there any *need* for government-created artificial entities at all?
  • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:25AM (#781861)
    IM dominance? The gov cares about IM dominance!? What about MEDIA dominance?? That is a lot more important than IM dominance.
  • AOL May Be Forced To Open AIM

    Newsflash! This just in! After a decision by the courts last week to force America Online to open READY, experts say the same will be done with AIM.

    One expert, Mr. Frank Furter, was quoted as saying, "They're holding a monopoly over all this IM business. We got them to open READY, AIM looks to be next... and we won't stop until we get them to open FIRE as well."

    AOL employees were seen nearby loading their rifles and snickering evilly.

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • by Erbo ( 384 ) <obreerbo@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:50AM (#781876) Homepage Journal
    ...it seems that several folks have taken to using [AIM] as their primary form of interstate comunication between departments/facilities. This forced our upper management to look into creating our own "chat thingie" without the file transfer (this is buisness after all). AOL is a closed standard, preventing us from acomplishing that.
    Might I (modestly) suggest Jabber [jabber.org]? Its decentralized nature and open XML-based protocols make it a great choice for companies implementing "internal" IM communications...you can run your own Jabber server, just the way you run your own email server. There are several excellent Jabber clients available now for different operating systems, and, if your employees absolutely have to talk to people on AIM (or ICQ, or other systems), there are server-based "transports" to bridge the gap.

    Have a look at Jabber.org [jabber.org] for the project's home, JabberCentral [jabbercentral.com] for info on clients, and Jabber.com [jabber.com] if your company needs custom client or server programming done, or commercial-grade support for your Jabber needs. (Disclaimer: The latter entity pays my salary...)

    Eric
    --

  • by photozz ( 168291 ) <.photozz. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:26AM (#781885) Homepage
    Speaking from a corporate enviorment...
    We have been trying to lock down the workstations configuration so people stop f***ing them up with screensavers and whatnot. Recently we released the list of "approved" aplications and recieved a ship storm that AIM was not on there. it seems that several folks have taken to using this as their primary form of interstate comunication between departments/facilities. This forced our upper management to look into creating our own "chat thingie" without the file transfer (this is buisness after all). AOL is a closed standard, preventing us from acomplishing that. The point is, management was taken compleetly by suprise by the fact that this "toy" had sudenly become a buisness critical aplication and the failure of AOL to open it's standard has actualy impacted our buisness. Go DOJ go DOJ!!

  • I SERIOUSLY doubt AOL has even close to 90% of the messaging market. ICQ, Yahoo, and MSN may not have the same userbase AIM does, but there's no way they constitute a mere 10% of the market.

    Perhaps they're forgetting that people can use more than one messenger at a time? I know I do, having friends on different messaging systems.

    --
  • by Operandi ( 231803 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @10:27AM (#781890)
    We may all prefer 1 'open IM network' but this isn't right. Why the bloody hell should AOL be forced to allow other firms to use THEIR service resources? Isn't this conflicting with the court's ruling that the meta-auction site (Cannot remember the name.) cannot index eBay's site because it robs eBay of the ability to use it's own resources? Hm, courts [may] force AOL to allow other firms to use their resources, but courts also disallow firms to use the resources of other firms. I think the WORLD's court systems are really out of touch with fucking reality.
  • Don't you know it's better when we share?
  • by Rombuu ( 22914 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @01:17PM (#781896)
    Why the hell should AOL pay for all those IM servers just to have other companies freeload off of them?
  • Whatever.

    The facts are:

    It's AOL's R&D dollars that went into it.
    It's AOL's servers.
    It's THEIR GODDAMN APPLICATION.

    So what makes you think that they should just open up and give MS (or anyone else) access to it? Why should other companies reap the benefits of AOL's R&D? Just because they were successful?

    That's -bullshit-.

    No one has a god-given right to be able to talk to it with any client they decide to build.

    Jesus H. Christ. Use some common sense.
  • So, I don't see why AIM being open or not matters, as long as everyone is using the same system. We use the MSN Messenger service at my work (for work communication). It's fine. They may be the biggest fish in the pool, but they're not the only one.

    I've actually got AIM, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Pager on my machine, because I use MSN for my cow-orkers, AIM for some friends, and Yahoo for the one friend who cannot get anything else out through his firewall.

  • >>2. The FCC governs public or quazi-public mediums. The internet is not public. It is a private tool. It was developed by the US government but now is not a tool of the US government. It belongs to no one and at the same time the people who own the hardware that make it go.

    Which is it? A private tool or one that belongs to no one, therefore owned by the public? I believe you're right on the latter. The government turned it over to the private sector in 1990 or so. But, while the internet backbone is privately owned - like telephone lines, it is also a public resource, like telephone lines.

    The telephone industry is highly regulated by the FCC as far as technical standards are concerned, but not as far as what you can say over the phone. This alone I believe is a precedent for the FCC to be able to regulate technical standards on the internet if they wish to (right now they don't).

    I really do believe that it would be a Good Thing(TM) for the FCC to assure that all communications protocols intended for the general public (ie, IM, Streaming Media, and the like) be open standards. There can be many open standards, but all content intended for public consumption should be available to all (for example, Winblows Media Player content should be available for Linux users). This would not prevent such things as secure eCommerce or on-line banking - things that require secure protocols. But these things are private, not for the public at large.

    The bottom line, in my view, is that if content is intended for the general public, be it web-pages (NO M$ "extensions" should be allowed), streaming media (Anyone should be able to write a RealPlayer or WMP clone), or IM (either AIM or GAIM should work), the standards and protocols must be made public. Even if there is no FCC rule requiring a certain standard, it is the job of the FCC to assure that all public content is available to all.
  • All communications over the internet intended for the general public should be free and open standards even if the exact source code of a given program isn't free. This goes for RealPlayer and Winblows Media Player as well as AIM and their ilk.

    I'm sorry, but my hot chats with my girlfriend are not meant for the general public. I believe they have sex sites for that, if that's your thing.

  • by SurfsUp ( 11523 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2000 @11:57AM (#781912)
    The FCC is opening a dangerous door if they think they have authority over a protocol or applications-layer operation, such as AIM. They regulate raw pipes, not applications.

    Get with it, my friend. Protocols are raw pipes. The days when you could define a raw information pipe in terms of what it is made of are over.
    --
  • Blocked in what way? Why wouldn't a replay attack work? Capture what AOL's AIM sends, and play it back to AOL, even if you don't understand just what it does.
  • Big deal - the real information of interest is not in the content of your messages, but who's in your "buddy list".

    The name of the game is traffic analysis, building a map of who's talking to whom.

    I'm willing to bet that the FBI's foot-draggin on carnivore is directly related to the fact that they may have been saving the message bodies of only current suspects, but saving everyone's headers for future reference. Too bad the truth is unlikely to come out barring a major fsck-up in document handling by the FBI (which is how COINTELPRO got blown wide open).

    -Isaac

  • The government should have NO BUSINESS in this.

    At first blush that was my reaction too - WTF is the FCC (!!) doing telling AOL or anyone else to open thier code?

    Then upon further reading, it turns out the FCC is doing this as part of the AOL / Time-Warner merger deal. In that regard it makes sense. The merger gives one company a hell of a lot of clout, getting them to shake loose a few proprietary things as part of the deal sounds like a good idea to me.
  • Who cares about IM dominance? There are bigger fish to fry... music, movies, news, oil...

    AOL sigle-handedly created the IM market, ICQ jumped in much later. Yahoo and MS weren't on the scene until everyone and their dog had an IM client, of course they can't break into the market.

Recent research has tended to show that the Abominable No-Man is being replaced by the Prohibitive Procrastinator. -- C.N. Parkinson

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