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AOL vs. Trillian 643

Trinition writes: "ZDNews is reporting that AOL is once again trying to shut out the competition. Trillian has been updated twice in the past 24 hours to work around the blocks AOL is throwing up to prevent the popular IM client from interoperating with the AOL Instant Messenger service. Will Cerulean Studios hold up better than those they follow in the footsteps of (i.e. Microsoft, AT&T and Jabber)?"
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AOL vs. Trillian

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  • Fire! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @10:53AM (#2930737) Homepage
    I'm not sure of the current status of the application, but AOL has been doing the same thing to the OS X application Fire (a multi network IM client). Ever since it's release it's been a game of AOL blocking and subsequent update "fixing" the block,

    Seems to me that all this extra programming is wasted cycles that could be better used for additional features for applications.

    This is one area where greed is holding back innovation in the IM market.
    • Re:Fire! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by IceFox ( 18179 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:22AM (#2930994) Homepage
      Kinkatta. I am the lead developer of Kinkatta. Kinkatta uses the toc protocal so we don't have these login wars like oscar does. (although twice we did break something that caused us not to login, but that is another story). Because of this we have been using our coding time to write up a plugin system that allows me to talk to someone in another language (on the fly babelfish translation) or encryt messages, or append my current song in xmms to my info (get icefox2's info on aim to see for yourself what is playing in my room). These of course are just my example plugins that I have made and anyone can make cooler ones.

      -Benjamin Meyer
  • Why the moaning? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheCabal ( 215908 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @10:53AM (#2930740) Journal
    It's AOL's software, AOL's servers and AOL's IM protocol. Why should they feel compelled to allow 3rd party software to access their network?
    • Because it would increase the user base of their network...

      but they don't want just that...they *want* you to use their network...*but only* with their client. It's a simple matter of protecting their revenue stream....or in this case, potential revenue stream.

      • Agreed 100%. Now, again I ask - why should they do otherwise? It may seem to you that it would be in their best interest, but it's not up to you, or any of us, it's up to them.

        It's like I set up a vending machine, in a public space, which accepts one kind of small metal disc (coins) in exchange for drinks. Just because someone comes up with another kind of small metal disc which also causes it to dispense drinks, doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to try and stop people using them.

        This is such a non-story. Sheesh.
      • Servers are expensive. Don't underestimate the costs. If the servers are so cheap, why don't you do the world a favor and offer to pay for enough servers to handle the load from all the people who don't use AOL clients on AIM?

        This is the same situation as that article a few days ago about online games and monthly subscription fees.
      • Re:Why the moaning? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by TheCabal ( 215908 )
        but they don't want just that...they *want* you to use their network...*but only* with their client. It's a simple matter of protecting their revenue stream....or in this case, potential revenue stream.

        And this is bad, why? AOL is in the business of making money. I think some people forget that... businesses make money. Letting some "freeloaders" in are going to detract from that, along with opening potential security issues (as if they don't have enough of their own) because now there's uncontrolled, unchecked software accessing their clients. It's their user database and their IM protocol they developed. They're entitled to include/exclude whomever they see fit. There are IM standards available for anyone who wants to write a standards-based IM client. This isn't hurting anyone except the freeloaders.
        • How much does it cost to access the AOL network with an AOL client if you are not a memeber of AOL?

          If the answer is nothing, how is it that people of third party clients are freeloaders and people using the AOL client are not?

          Just curious.
    • Not even why should they feel compeled to let 3rd parties access their network, but why must they feel compelled to allow 3rd parties to use the non-3rd party protocol.

      There's the free-to-implement TOC protocol.
    • It's AOL's software, AOL's servers and AOL's IM protocol. Why should they feel compelled to allow 3rd party software to access their network?

      Because thats the attitude that kills companies in this market. The global economy is moving from goods to services, and that applies to software as well. AOL would better serve their revenues and public image by finding ways to get money from 3rd parties instead of trying to fight them.

      Aol may soon cut their nose off entirely...
      • "Because thats the attitude that kills companies in this market. The global economy is moving from goods to services, and that applies to software as well."

        LOL! Do you think "capturing eyeballs" is important, too? What's more important, selling an item, or getting page views? You Stanford Business School types crack me up.

        Seriously, you have to remember that it costs AOL money to keep their network up. If they just let anyone who wanted to access that network without using their "approved" client, there's no gaurantee those people will receive AOL's ads (which are sold to pay for the network). This is analogous to tapping into a cable line.
        • What's more important, selling an item, or getting page views?
          For one, none of us have access to AOL's strategy. Second, in this case they could better 'sell an item'. Their network is huge, their marketshare is monopolistic, and their public opinion isn't good among technical types. They must nurture those concerns, and trying to kill non-AOL clients will eventually complicate official AOL clients.

          AOL can block clients for the time being and have more banner impressions. The competition, however, isn't stupid and will trample AOL if AOL doesn't find a better strategy with thier network.
        • AOL's ads don't pay the network. They might sell part of it, but it's a tiny one at best. I don't think AOL is earning any money with AIM, I'd guess it's more a thing of brand recognition. Which is completely irrelevant to the issue that they're legally (and, arguably, morally) allowed to ban non-AIM users, of course.
    • Re:Why the moaning? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Trinition ( 114758 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:04AM (#2930837) Homepage
      Because...

      1. They added an overlay protocol, TIC-TOC, to allow interoperability (although, very limited, and not kept up-to-date).

      2. The FCC ordered them to demonstrate iteroperability. They chose their victim.. I mean, partner, to be some dot-com that is now bankrupt and defunct (nice loop-hole spotting, AOL!). I'm trying to find links on this to back this up, and I'll post them here when I find them (just couldn't let this go unanswered).

      3. AOL accepts e-mail from non-AOL SMTP servers. These e-mails traverse the AOL network, tying up their resources, and ultimately being converted into some AOL format for display in AOL. Why don't they block that? Oh, because it adds value to AOL by allowing its users to interoperate with the rest of the world. The difference with IM is that AOL owns 90% of that world (ICQ & AOL), so they don't see any value added.

      • 2. The FCC ordered them to demonstrate iteroperability. They chose their victim.. I mean, partner, to be some dot-com that is now bankrupt and defunct (nice loop-hole spotting, AOL!). I'm trying to find links on this to back this up, and I'll post them here when I find them (just couldn't let this go unanswered).



        Here's a PCWorld article [pcworld.com] about the condition of the merger that required AIM to be exposed a little.
      • Re:Why the moaning? (Score:5, Informative)

        by RazzleFrog ( 537054 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:16AM (#2930950)
        The FCC ordered them to demonstrate iteroperability. They chose their victim.. I mean, partner, to be some dot-com that is now bankrupt and defunct (nice loop-hole spotting, AOL!). I'm trying to find links on this to back this up, and I'll post them here when I find them (just couldn't let this go unanswered).

        Keep looking because you are wrong. Here is a link [net4tv.com]. The FCC only forces them to demonstrate interoperability of advanced IM services which includes Video conferencing and the such. Nothing was set about regular IM. Of course, this agreement lasts for only 5 years and can change at any time.
    • So why should they Allow Netscape Browsers to run on their OS? Why should they allow AOL to be installed on their OS?

      Why should ISP's provide the bandwidth that AOL uses with there "proprietary application"?

      Double standards R us
  • And since Trillian is able to keep up within a day's notice, I can't see how the efforts on AOL's part are making any significant dent.

    Of course, thats not really the issue here. But its better they do it this way than sue competitors. Not to say thats not an option they're reserving for the future.

    -Restil
  • Advertisements (Score:5, Insightful)

    by skroz ( 7870 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @10:53AM (#2930744) Homepage
    If I were AOL, I would certainly have a problem with Trillian, solely because it blocks the advertisements that are the only way that users "pay" for the service. It's much like network television, for which joe consumer doesn't directly pay for anything.

    They have to make money in order to pay for the services, and Trillian is taking a small piece of that away. Right or wrong, AOL is doing what's in their best interests.
    • Re:Advertisements (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sarcazmo ( 555312 )
      If I were ABC/CBS/NBC, I would certainly have a problem with VCRs, solely because it blocks the advertisements that are the only way that users "pay" for the service. It's ... network television, for which joe consumer doesn't directly pay for anything.
      They have to make money in order to pay for the services, and the VCR is taking a small piece of that away. Right or wrong, ABC/CBS/NBC is doing what's in their best interests.
      • Re:Advertisements (Score:3, Insightful)

        by skroz ( 7870 )
        But VCRs don't directly impact their ability to display ads. You can fast forward, sure, but that's the same as walking out of the room to take a leak during the commercials. The commercials still reach a percentage of VCR users. And for a longer period of time, too... if you watch the show repeatedly and don't fast forward, the networks get a "free" airing of the commercial.
      • Re:Advertisements (Score:4, Interesting)

        by CleverNickName ( 129189 ) <wil@wilwhePLANCKaton.net minus physicist> on Thursday January 31, 2002 @01:37PM (#2931990) Homepage Journal
        While I understand the advertising argument, and I think it's valid, to a point, the comparison with network TV doesn't match up for me.

        I mean, when you're watching TV, and a commercial comes on, you usually change the channel, or run to the bathroom, or the kitchen, or something, right? You don't sit there, dutifully watching the advertising, because you feel some obligation to "pay" for your show, right?

        Trillian does what IM does, and it does it better. Bottom line. I know that AOL doesn't like it, but, instead of trying to stomp on Trillian, maybe AOL should notice that lots of users are taking advantage of what Trillian offers, and actually compete with Trillian, by writing software that does a similar thing, and letting the market decide what's going to be used, and what's going to be the Atari 7800.

        I know this won't happen, but I'm just saying.

        And as far as the ads go, when I still used IM (before switching to Trillian), I altered my config files so I wouldn't see the ads, anyway. I thought everyone did that. ;)
    • Re:Advertisements (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Trinition ( 114758 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:00AM (#2930799) Homepage
      Ah, yes, but a lot of people take less issue with the ads than the other problems. Let's consider both:

      1. A lot of corporations realize IM is here to stay. They might be willing to pay outright for an ad-free version (perhaps even branded), but AOL isn't offering one. Why? Are they too short-sighted to see it?

      2. For lots of folks, including myself, its not the ads that bother me, its their development path. I'd like to see some useful features (like aliasing a buddy name so its meaningful instead of Fooboo24). I'd also like to see less bloat (rate your buddy, play games, buddy icons, etc.).

      Trillian is not intended as a way to steal money from AOL (notice that Trillian is free to download and use?). It's an alternative with a lot of features that, apparently, people *do* want. AOL could truly squash Trillian if they adopted their features instead of this crap they're pulling now. Heck, why not just *BUY* Cerulean studios?

      • Oh, I agree... AOL's features suck, and their dev cycle is far too slow. Now, if trillian were to display the ads AND pump out new features, AOL may not have a problem with the product. Maybe... I don't know AOL's motivations, I'm just guessing.
      • 1. A lot of corporations realize IM is here to stay. They might be willing to pay outright for an ad-free version (perhaps even branded), but AOL isn't offering one. Why? Are they too short-sighted to see it? At least one coproration offers AOL IM connectivity banner free. [lotus.com] I am 99.5% sure that Lotus has licensed the AOL IM protocol for use. My employer has noticed the productivity increase with the use of these tools. They save on phone bills, and several sub-conversations can go on within phone meetings, saving greatly on time. I bet that's why Lotus took that opportunity and they sure are capitolizing on it now!
    • Re:Advertisements (Score:2, Informative)

      by tsmit ( 222375 )
      Or, you could just remove the ads from AOL IM clients.

      Go here [wtfiml33t.com].
    • Re:Advertisements (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dagoalieman ( 198402 )
      This may sound stupid, but do you think that AOL would really allow a client that used their ads to exist (hah, right, but let's pretend).

      I don't theeenk so. Why not? AOL will get paranoid. Program X, which supports their client, and uses their adds too, will build up a user base. Once that base is sufficiently large (say 10% of AOL's group), Program X can suddenly diverge from the AOL standard, and go off on it's own network. That means lost people for AOL. They would NOT want this, so they're going to do what they can to keep anyone from having the chance. 10% of say a million users is still plenty of money.

      Either way, I agree with you- It's AOL's network, and they gotta pay for it too.. So they're covering their butt.

      .
    • Yet there are web pages that describe how to disable ads in ICQ [cexx.org], but AOL doesn't go after those also. AOL is only going after programs that don't keep users locked in to AOL's service.

      User base is worth more than revenue to AOL right now. Just like the way it is with MSIE.

  • by Contact ( 109819 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @10:53AM (#2930747)
    Trillian is a very nice client - we use it almost exclusively here at work, as it lets us keep in contact with people using multiple IM platforms, and also doesn't ram ads down our throats.

    One interesting thing is that the new AIM blocks only seem to affect Trillian v0.7x - some of our users still using v0.6x are still working fine, whereas us early adopters are having to update rapidly.

    Luckily, the newest (v0.721) build includes an auto update function, so keeping up to date is likely to be much easier in the future. Bear in mind that there's a limit to how much AOL can do to break the protocols, as they don't want to shut out all of their previous clients.
    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:07AM (#2930865)
      Trillian is a very nice client - we use it almost exclusively here at work, as it lets us keep in contact with people using multiple IM platforms, and also doesn't ram ads down our throats.

      Those ads are what pay for the servers, the infrastructure, the maintenance and enhancement of the software, etc. If you are using the service without the ads, you're getting a free ride on all the people who do use the service as intended.

      Why do you think TiVo doesn't let you completely strip away ads and watch programmes seamlessly? Because without ad revenue there are no programmes, at least not on non-PPV channels. The TV companies know this, and the enlightened consumer knows it too.

      IMHO, this is all about a minority of users wanting free beer, and dressing it up in free speech rhetoric. Don't forget that ICQ was a small company once... if you really need IM functionality and don't want to use a commercial service... implement your own for internal use.
      • IMHO, this is all about a minority of users wanting free beer, and dressing it up in free speech rhetoric. Don't forget that ICQ was a small company once... if you really need IM functionality and don't want to use a commercial service... implement your own for internal use.

        I disagree. For me, and I suspect this is true of the majority of Trillian users, it comes down to the number of clients running. I've got a pretty quick Windows box, but I tend to stress it pretty much every day. I also happen to have some old friends on ICQ, several cousins, friends, and my sister on AIM, and a college roommate on MSN. No one will switch, and I can't run three clients all day every day. Hence, Trillian. Now, I don't really care if it shows ads or not; that had nothing to do with my decision. If AOL will come out with a client that can talk to MSN and ICQ, fine, I'll probably go back (they need to work on their logging, too).

        This isn't about free beer or free speech. It's about free RAM and free processor cycles.

        -db
    • Perhaps AOL's strategy isn't to permanently block the client, but to force updates so often that users will cease using Trillian and migrate back to the AOL client.
  • by Sc00ter ( 99550 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @10:54AM (#2930755) Homepage
    Is that they're killing off Trillian, and their first fix was to force them to turn off their "SecureIM" feature. Something that uses 128bit encryption between trillian clients. I loved that feature. The other odd thing is AOL isn't stopping third party clients from attaching to ICQ, another IM network that they own.

    Oh well.. I'm glad I signed up for MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger and use trillian for both of those too..
  • No, Cereulean will not fare any better. AOL has blocked other companies access before successfully, and I see no reason why they would change that policy now. AOL sees instant messaging as something that they offer above and beyond the run of the mill ISP, and if someone is tapping in, then they see a threat and try to stop it.


    I am not making a comment on the fairness of the practice here, just stating the reality of the situation.

  • Smoke screen (Score:2, Informative)

    by TimeTrip ( 254631 )
    Personally I wish it hadn't gone that far. Better to stay under the radar.. But anyways.. trillian was cut off, unless you disabled secureIM. That only worked for a day though. Cerulean released a patch that disabled it automatically but the next day access was blocked again.

    Someone though AOL was on a mission. He even showed a screen shot that showed the uninstall icon for AIM being a crossed out trillian icon. Too bad he didn't realize that that icon was some kind of bug, cuz my uninstall icon was a vncviewer icon. GO figure.

    But the fix for that second day was to go back to an even older version of trillian. Now cerulean just released one that works now without having to go back to an older version.

    Some people just seemed to jump the gun a little I think.

    Then again.. maybe AOL does have it in for them. Either way the cerulean guys are doing a great job!
  • Well, almost.

    Trillian is a simple, small and pretty customizeable app that takes my start bar from 5 icons down to one and manages my history, chats and everything with one app.

    It will be AOL's loss if they get rid of a chunk of people on the network. How it can be a security risk is beyond me. You have to signup the same way and access the same network, is AOL just so inept it doesn't know how to write a secure im client?

    Oh well. Maybe it is time to sue AOL for having a monopoly and waiving its monopolostic powers over IM technology. Don't they own ICQ, don't they Own AIM? Doesn't owning that much marketshare and preventing other users from using such technology constitute a monopoly using its powers to prevent other business from competing in the market?

    Oh well. trillian is great, i wish them the best of luck sneaking around IM's / AOL's policies.
  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @10:56AM (#2930781) Homepage
    I must say that AIM is the best thing that AOL produces. (Not counting Winamp/ICQ as those are merely apps that they bought and haven't "AOL-ized" too much.) But some people I know are on AIM, Yahoo, and even ICQ. I tried out Trillian and now I'm loving being able to only run one IM client. (Plus it'll check for new Yahoo e-mail while I'm chatting with an AIM buddy.)

    Back in July there was a story about AOL saying they were working on letting AIM access other messaging clients [slashdot.org]. I guess it's ok for AIM to access Yahoo/MS/etc buddy lists but it's not ok for another app to access the AIM servers. Nice double standard there AOL. (Apparently they want Open Standards for Instant Messaging to apply to everyone but them.)
  • by Anixamander ( 448308 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @10:57AM (#2930786) Journal
    No doubt the posts will soon start flowing in that AOL is evil for preventing this little company from accessing their network. My question is why is this wrong? Why should America Online not be the exclusive provider of America Online Instant Messaging functionality? Sure they do it to make money off of ads and exert some kind of institutional control. But do other companies have a right to be a part of this? Is it merely that AOL will have a monopoly on the instant messaging market? There certainly seem to be enough big competitors out there to prevent this. Just curious about why all the fuss.
  • PR spinning (Score:4, Funny)

    by BCGlorfindel ( 256775 ) <(klassenk) (at) (brandonu.ca)> on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:00AM (#2930808) Journal
    "It has long been our very public policy that when a service unleashes software that hacks into our system, and endangers the security of our system, we stop it," AOL spokeswoman Kathy McKiernan said.

    Sometimes you have to just sit back and admire the pr spins people can put on an issue. Since Sept.11 the security issue is a no brainer. However, the system hacking aspect is just above and beyond. Kathy recognizes that one can use enough half-truths to defend her statements that trillian is hacking into AIM servers. It's absolutely amazing how such blatant blocking of a service can spun so effectively. AOL gets some kudos from me on reminding us here on just how evil they can be. It's completely deceptive and underhanded, and yet completely unprovable to any but the technically literate.

    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist. -Verbal Kint
  • by jamesoutlaw ( 87295 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:00AM (#2930809) Homepage
    I don't really understand why anyone gets upset whenever AOL blocks a non-AIM client from using their proprietary network and resources. AOL owns the systems that power AIM and should be allowed to prevent non-AIM clients from accessing them altogether, in fact, they have every right to protect their property and to see that their resources are used according to their will.

    It has nothing to do with AOL being predatory (as mentioned in the article) or "selfish" (also mentioned in the article). It has everything to do with AOL protecting the resources that it, as a corporation, owns.
  • by eAndroid ( 71215 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:02AM (#2930826) Homepage
    Can anyone explain to me how AOL is changing their protocol without breaking their own IM? Is their client just more flexible, or does it have built in support for a dozen protocol revisions?

    I would hope that whatever they're doing the clues as to what the next change might be are already there in the client. Perhaps we could build a fake ICQ server and run tests on the AOL client with slightly modified protocols to see what it supports. Then build in the same support into Trillian et al.

    For me I'd love to stop using AOL's ICQ since I use OS X. The official client doesn't behave at all like a good OS X app should.
    • by muffen ( 321442 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:32AM (#2931063)
      Can anyone explain to me how AOL is changing their protocol without breaking their own IM?

      I don't work for AOL or CeruleanStudios, so what I'm stating here are my asumptions.

      I think that the first thing that AOL did was to analyze the data. If they found a Trillian SecrureIM package, then disconnect the user. This is why disabling SecureIM solved the problem at first.

      I'm not sure what happened in the second step, but one theory is that they started checking the version number submitted in the Authentication request(or something similar).

      Right now, Trillian seems to be working (Version 0.721). However, I believe that AIM has a CRC capability. The server will send a CRC request to the client with an offset and a length argument. The client will CRC the number of bytes specified by length starting from the specified offset, and send back the result. If the CRC doesn't match, then disconnect the user. It would be very hard to reverse-engineer the CRC algorithm. I believe that this is how Jabber was stopped in the end.
      • I believe that this is how Jabber was stopped in the end.

        Incorrect. The current jabber AIM-transport works on the basis of the server operators putting the AIM binaries somewhere the transport can see it. It then calculates checksums off ot that.

        AOL has been blocking AIM and ICQ traffic from jabber servers simply by blocking their IP's.
  • I wonder what Trillian and all of the other programs who ride for free on AOL's network do to the advertising fees AOL gets.

    I mean, think about it, if 1million people are using Trillian, that's probably 1million people who aren't seeing AOL's built-in AIM ads, and that would probably throw off their selling points. Maybe a solve for this would be for trillian to implement AOL's ads? (of course ads do suck, but maybe that would be a compromise that AOL could live with?)

    • Broken Logic (Score:2, Interesting)

      by piotrr ( 101798 )

      If one million people are using Trillian instead of AIM, what makes you think any of these people would be using AIM if they weren't using Trillian? I for one have never seen the AIM client in my life, and I still use that portion of Trillian since it allows me to contact even more people. If I wasn't using Trillian, I would simply not be in touch with these people. I'm not prepared to run yet another IM program to do the exact same thing and I would rather just stay away from it. Especially with some security issues that have come up, and the potential bulkiness and advertisements of the AIM client.

      Your idea is a valid thought at first glance, the comparison that 1M-people using Trillian "instead" of AIM means a 1M-ad-viewer loss to AIM. This is simply not true. It's the same kind of logic that applied when game publishers back in the heyday of Commodore 64 games pirating said that they were losing N times X dollars from piracy, where N is the number of pirate copies and X is the price per unit. Most of these N people would not pay the X dollars, or view the X advertisements and produce the N*X revenue the company claims to be losing.

      If Trillian is forced to fall back to older AIM compatibility, or even drop AIM alltogether, I am hardly going out to get the AIM client. I'll badmouth the company by retelling this story when people ask me to go on AIM, and maybe I'll even win a few more contacts over to Trillian or ICQ or whatever service might be the most interesting.

      I changed from ICQ to Trillian and found that I could even drop my old pIRCh as well. *I'm*not going to change IMs a second time. I'm staying.

  • What AOL should do is lock down their protocol so that nobody else can use it. Then, license the way for anybody to access the protocol providing that they show the advertisements that AOL provides. Thus anybody who wants to make a client can do so with little trouble and AOL doesn't have to worry about profits.
    • But you see, it's not solely about advertising after all.

      Companies like AOL spend billions a year on getting their name out there. One of the ways to get your companies name out there is Branding. You want your name all over your product and you want you product to get in front of as many faces as often as you can and branding is gonna be a big part of this for them.

      Let's say that Trillian (*yay Go Trillian*) stands unobstructed, it's a better client than aim, it's more useful to a LOT of people and has some really nice functionality not offered by AIM. So everyone starts using it. (except for AOL users) All of a sudden there's no more AIM on everyones boxes, no more AOL banners, AOL tracking, AOL propaganda. The most valuable feature to them of their IM client is the fact that they get to spatter their name on everyones desktops.

      Most everyone I know, knows what AIM is even if they don't use it. AOL isn't about to gonna give up their userbase's clients to a third party that's gonna advertise them at the same level as icq, yahoo and msn. all of a sudden they're left holding the login bag without branding or advertisement sales.

      they spent the money and devd the servers, they spent the $$ and devd the clients, they should have the right not to have outside programs connect to the server and use their resources for free if they choose not to.

      but also notice that the aim client is very stale, no decent changes in years, they own aol and icq, you'd expect that it would not kill them to make a client that wraps aim and icq together if a user chooses to do so? If their product wasn't obviously lacking, Trillian would not be able to get a foothold as easily on the market.

      I'll sit back and root for Trillian 'till the cows come home' but i expeect that they'll eventually get beat down. AOL is tough competition, and they take their rights seriously.

      Wonder how long it will be until someone comes up with a client that attaches to oscar through the AIM client program itself to connect in?

  • by signe ( 64498 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:09AM (#2930884) Homepage
    For the millionth time, AOL is not preventing 3rd party clients from interoperating with the AOL Instant Messenger system. What they are doing is preventing 3rd party clients from using OSCAR, which is AOL's "private" protocol for AIM. They're not touching TOC, which is the protocol which AOL makes available for 3rd party clients to use.

    Sure, flame me because:
    1) TOC doesn't have all the features of OSCAR
    2) TOC (might) use more resources than OSCAR on AOL's side, so you're doing them a favor.
    3) AOL's required by the court to let us play in their sandbox.
    4) AOL's a big bully.
    5) Information wants to be free, man!

    If AOL wants to make a subset of the features available to 3rd party clients, it's their prerogative. They own the servers, they wrote the service, they pay for the people to maintain the servers. And if TOC uses more resources than OSCAR on AOL's servers (which is just a rumor, and not confirmed from anyone with any authority), that's AOL's business, not yours. And no, AOL is not required by any court to let 3rd party clients play with AIM. They're only required to make the "next generation" AIM available to 3rd parties.

    If you use OSCAR to connect to AIM and you don't use AOL's clients to do it, you don't get to complain when they change OSCAR around, regardless of whether they're deliberately blocking someone or just making modifications to the protocol for something else. Use TOC, or use another IM service.

    -Todd
    • What they are doing is preventing 3rd party clients from using OSCAR, which is AOL's "private" protocol for AIM.

      Ehh...

      The AIM protocol is not called OSCAR, but FLAP! Oscar is the name of the server, and BOS (Basic Oskar Services) is the name of the services.

      I have never heard of TOC before, and I have no idea what it is. Please explain what TOC is (to me it sounds like your mixing up AIM with burning CD-R's or something).
  • Gotta love the quote from the AOL spokeswoman:

    "It has long been our very public policy that when a service unleashes software that hacks into our system, and endangers the security of our system, we stop it," AOL spokeswoman Kathy McKiernan said.

    So, since I run Trillian does that make me a hacker? And here I thought I was running an app that just made my life a whole lot easier by combining various incompatible IM services into one easy-to-use application.

  • Last night I was using Fire, a program very similar to Trillian, but for os-X. Things seemed to be working fine.

    I wonder how/why AOL targeted one client, but not others. I haven't updated my fire client in weeks, so I know they aren't jumping through hoops (yet).

    --T
  • OK, so I'm really sick of the editor's modding here on slashdot, but if it weren't for this place, I wouldn't hear about awesome programs and other neat stuff like this Trillian IM client. I have used Jabber in the past, and, well, it sucked. So I was perfectly fine being stuck using three chat clients at once (AIM, Yahoo, and IRC).

    But, wow! I just downloaded this program, and it is sharp! I'm very impressed. You would think a multi-billion dollar company like AOL/TW would be able to put out a quality product like this, but once again, my theory that the little guys always do it better proves true. I hope the big guys realize this for once and give up on trying to shut out this chat client to their servers. If they were actually halfway smart, they'd get an agreement signed with Cerulean to allow some sort of advertising or something not too personally intrusive for the use of their aol servers.

  • I love software that lets me skin its interface. Being user-configurable is such a plus with me, that I actually donated $$$ to Trillian through pay-pal. If AOL spent some time/effort to make its client as configurable as Trillian, I'd reconsider using it. But right now, its interface is BORING.
  • Several people have mentioned this as a possible way to mollify IM providers, but I see a problem with this.

    Each of these providers has their own advertising agreements. Each of these agreements appears to involve showing ads non-stop on the contact list or primary interface. This means that for a product like Trillian to succesfully implement ad-serving, they would have to have over four ads on their main interface (Over four because some of these providers display more than one ad at a time).

    Of course, these services are free because they serve ads. How can they offer the service without that? Possibly allow users to pay a pittance for the usage of the service, and have an open interface available for these users?
    As long as they didn't money-grub, I would be willing to pay twelve dollars for a year's worth of service on AIM or MSN. I'm not an advertising expert, but I can't imagine that they have the possibility of making more than a dollar a month in advertising revenue for my usage.
  • by kisrael ( 134664 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:23AM (#2931003) Homepage
    I've mostly used AIM, largely because that's what most people I wanted to chat with used. (And I'm really irritated at losing contact with some Trillian using buddies.)

    I tried ICQ, but AIM does at least two things better:
    * the ICQ UI is a horrendous mess. AIM has a good, simple UI. Cleaner in many ways then the Trillian version I used. And as the release new versions of the AIM client, whenever they change default behaviors (like minimizing to task bar vs system tray, etc) they're very good at letting users get the old behavior back in the options menu.
    * I have never received AIM spam, but those two weeks of ICQ were nothing but teen porn ads. I'm not sure if its ICQ numbering scheme that makes it so spam prone, or something AIM does better

    There are somethings AIM doesn't do, like my friend pointed out ICQ has a cool autolog of conversations feature, but overall, AIM is a
    good little client, other clients could take a few pages from its usability book.
    • Another thing that AIM does right is that all security is done on the server, as opposed to being on the client for most other services. This includes privacy, flood limitations, and authentication.

      As for autologging, lack of that feature really ticks me off. However, TiK [sourceforge.net] does support autologging, and that is what I use for 90% of my AIM conversations. I also discovered recently that AIM for Mac OS has an autologging feature, though AIM for Mac OS X doesn't.

  • Jabber (Score:4, Informative)

    by XBL ( 305578 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:23AM (#2931006)
    The main problem with AIM and Jabber is not the protocol, but AOL blocking the IP Address of Jabber's AIM transport. If it's moved to a new IP, it's usually blocked in a matter of only hours.

    Apparently they notice when hundreds of client connections are coming off one IP Address, no problems.
  • I'd just like to say how much I enjoy using trillian [trillian.cc] and that it has really made things easy for my parents and grandparents who are too simple to understand concepts such as IM wars. Email works irregarless of what client you use, why the heck can't anyone figure out how to do the same with instant messaging? Selfishness has caused the electronic society to drop the ball on this one.

  • by nhavar ( 115351 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:37AM (#2931099) Homepage
    • AOL generates ad revenue on a per user basis, not on whether the ad actually made it to the client.
    • What trillian does is not illegal, otherwise AOL would have taken them to court (which they did not do with MS/ATT/Jabber/Odigo et al).
    • Reverse engineering for the purpose of interoperability is granted by law (see VCR).
    • There are already hacks available for AOL/ICQ et al that strip the ad or replace the ad space and AOL takes no action against them.
    • AOL lies and states that it's a security issue and accuse the competitor of "hacking" to attempt to turn public sentiment against the compititor. If it were "hacking", AOL would be able to call the police, file a lawsuit, or notify the FBI. Since this is not "hacking", in their modified sense of the word, then no law has been broken and AOL can do nothing but shuffle their protocol to attempt to block people out. This comes down to basic fraud.
    • The ruling when AOL/Timewarner merged was that they could do so only if they opened their IM service. As far as I know, no timeline was put on that interoperability and therefore AOL could stall indefinitely. The makers of Trillian appear to just be helping we the consumer receive what the ruling had already requested, but in a significantly limited fashion (I.E. not true interoperability)
    • AOL took no action against Trillian until it gained significant popularity. Only then did it become a "security concern". Meanwhile any client under a million users is not technically a "security concern". So any of you hackers out there who want to hack into AOL's service feel free to get 900,000 of your compatriots together and nail their system. If there are security concerns with AOL's AIM protocol then why do they suggest that it is the best and most secure and want it as a standard above all others? If there is a security concern with the use/implementation of that protocol why not simply plug the hole and be done with it? Why? Because they are lying about the security risk implemented by alternate clients.
    • Why is it that no other im system has shut out Trillian? Because the rest of the IM systems/companies want interoperability and are working to that goal, only AOL remains apart from that venture because they are serving their own greed and monopolizing the IM market through preditory practices. AOL has the potential to make MS look like an amature when it comes to market predation.

    Since I signed up with a user name on AIM they make money off of me. They use me as a resource to fund their activities therefore I will use them as a resource for mine. If through my choice of clients I consume more resources than they gain from me then it's time for them to look at a different business model. The last time I looked the majority ad on AIM was still for AOL's own over priced service. I did not, upon signing up with AIM, agree to use a particular client to consume said resource therefore they should not block me from use because of my choice. Saying that there is no "business relationship" makes it appear that AOL wants one, this is not the case as has been proven time and time again. AOL does not want business relationships that will do nothing to further their capture of market share.

    • Minor correction. The conditions for the AOL/TIMEWarner merger in regards to IM are: "AOL Time Warner must guarantee interoperability in its IM services before offering 'advanced IM-based high-speed services,' such as videoconferencing." Meaning that advanced service can be offered only after the basic interoperability has been addressed. Interoperability was to be accomplished either through adoption of a standard protocol, opening AOL's existing protocol, or licensing to another major network. AOL did license with another competitor which then promptly went bankrupt. They have yet to fulfil the part of the agreement that stated that they must sign additional partnerships within 180 days of the first. See http://screaming-penguin.com/main.php?storyid=1604 [screaming-penguin.com]
    • AOL generates ad revenue on a per user basis, not on whether the ad actually made it to the client.

      Not true. Advertising agencies take into account the number of active users. In addition, if an ad agency finds that less and less people are going to be using AIM (therefore less people actually viewing their ad), they would not pay as much. Think of it this way..there are going to be a couple million people watching TV on Super Bowl Sunday. Would you pay $1.5 million to advertise on PBS, who won't be showing the super bowl? That's the same logic in this case of Trillian vs AIM.

      What trillian does is not illegal, otherwise AOL would have taken them to court (which they did not do with MS/ATT/Jabber/Odigo et al).

      Again, another misconception. IANAL. AOL and AIM is a closed system. It is illegal for anybody or any group of people to intrude onto a closed system. AOL owns the servers, networks, etc to run this, why must they allow other people to use it for free? The reason they don't take them to court is 1) bad publicity. Anytime anybody is suing an underdog, it gets them bad publicity. Think of it this way, you and a couple million open source users would be pissed off at AOL if they were to sue Jabber (an open source IM client). They would be viewed as the RIAA of the IM world. 2) Litigations costs a lot of money and time. As a company (regardless of the size) time and money are two essential resources that can disappear rapidly. In the time that they put into this, something new might pop up and now their number 1 position fades to #3.

      Reverse engineering for the purpose of interoperability is granted by law (see VCR).

      Again another falsehood. Under DMCA, reverse engineering a system is illegal. Look at Sony vs Modchip [slashdot.org] or Reverse Engineer of Adobe PDF [slashdot.org] or Sony Aibo vs Hackers [slashdot.org] or the DVD decryption... All of these were reverse engineering for interoperability.

      There are already hacks available for AOL/ICQ et al that strip the ad or replace the ad space and AOL takes no action against them.

      AOL has a choice of doing something against a rival or not. It is the same as a police officer letting some speeders go without giving them a ticket. For them to go after EVERYONE would turn them more and more into RIAA.

      AOL lies and states that it's a security issue and accuse the competitor of "hacking" to attempt to turn public sentiment against the compititor. If it were "hacking", AOL would be able to call the police, file a lawsuit, or notify the FBI. Since this is not "hacking", in their modified sense of the word, then no law has been broken and AOL can do nothing but shuffle their protocol to attempt to block people out. This comes down to basic fraud.

      "hacking" has a wide range of meanings. Again, I responded to the legal aspect above.

      The ruling when AOL/Timewarner merged was that they could do so only if they opened their IM service. As far as I know, no timeline was put on that interoperability and therefore AOL could stall indefinitely. The makers of Trillian appear to just be helping we the consumer receive what the ruling had already requested, but in a significantly limited fashion (I.E. not true interoperability)
      If this were true, Trillian could sue AOL. But instead of following the legal route, they are trying to do this through the backdoor. What you are saying is that Trillian is taking the law into their own hands. It is the same as shooting a thief instead of reporting it to the police.

      AOL took no action against Trillian until it gained significant popularity. Only then did it become a "security concern". Meanwhile any client under a million users is not technically a "security concern". So any of you hackers out there who want to hack into AOL's service feel free to get 900,000 of your compatriots together and nail their system. If there are security concerns with AOL's AIM protocol then why do they suggest that it is the best and most secure and want it as a standard above all others? If there is a security concern with the use/implementation of that protocol why not simply plug the hole and be done with it? Why? Because they are lying about the security risk implemented by alternate clients.
      The underlying fact is that, AIM belongs to AOL, they can choose who or what can use it. There is no law saying that any vendor must sell to everyone. The part about the security concern is this [my personal analysis] if I were to build a aim client put it out on the net for everyone to use, but hide a password sniffer in there, this creates a major vulnerability to the AOL system. Some AIM users are also AOL users. I could then access AOL using their account.

      Why is it that no other im system has shut out Trillian? Because the rest of the IM systems/companies want interoperability and are working to that goal, only AOL remains apart from that venture because they are serving their own greed and monopolizing the IM market through preditory practices. AOL has the potential to make MS look like an amature when it comes to market predation.


      Quite true...I agree with you on this fact.

      If through my choice of clients I consume more resources than they gain from me then it's time for them to look at a different business model.


      This is false. Any company can limit the amount of resources that you use. For example, there are FAP limits for cable modems and broadband. In addition, an "all you can eat" buffet is legally allowed to kick you out once you consume to much of their food (resources).

      AOL does not want business relationships that will do nothing to further their capture of market share.


      That is the exact definition of a business relationship. A company makes a business relationship so that it could make more money for itself. It's a fact. Companies aren't out there to save the world, companies sole purpose to to make a profit. This is a fact that a lot of times the people discussing business practices often miss. We often put ourselves in a idealized world where everyone helps out each other. In a capitalistic society that is not what the society is about. If you are looking for an environment where there is a fair sharing of profits where companies don't seek profits but to do some good, this is the socialist ideals at its core. Computer programmers and hackers alike from the very beginning have always been in a mindset of creating something for the shear joy of it and to help out the world. That is what drives many of us. In the past, there was very little profit to be made. Howerver, in the last couple of years, MBAs and marketting teams have taken over the industry. We are now subjected to their goals.

      Now, again, I'm not bashing Trillian. I've been a long time trillian user. But it is hard to argue against facts of the law and facts of corporate/business world.
  • Had that been the headline you all would be absolutely LOVING AOL!

    Side note have you sent your PayPal support to Trillian, have you ever REALLY supported them?
  • Trillian has been around a while, although it has recently been offering updates a little more quickly with more features.

    But don't you think it is a little odd that this mess starts with AOL not a week after Trillian gets top pick in a CNET review of IM clients [cnet.com]?

  • Funny, they don't seem to be blocking Gaim. Interesting selectivity.
  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @11:53AM (#2931244) Journal
    This is a perfect example why open standards and RFCs have stopped this mess from occuring in other areas.

    Imagine incompatible e-mail clients, online services, DNS, news, etc...

    Instant Messaging should be decentralized. This is what happens when commercial interests drive communication "standards" over the net.

    Remember pre-popular-internet when mail programs wouldn't talk to each other? Exchange, cc:mail, lotus notes, and a host of others? Remember early online services that didn't permit access to content outside their worlds? MSN, AOL, Compuserve, Genie, etc...?

    There should be an RFC, each ISP or provider should host their own IM server, their customers connect to it using the client of their choice, and outsiders send messages in for instant delivery based on a standard naming convention.

    But we'll never get there now, it's too late. I'm just thankful the rest of the net isn't in this mess.

  • by Trinition ( 114758 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @12:06PM (#2931334) Homepage
    Here's AOL's response to an open IM network:

    http://aim.aol.com/openim/ [aol.com]
  • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Thursday January 31, 2002 @01:22PM (#2931877) Journal
    remains completely un-addressed.

    IM is really nice, and is basic infrastructure at many organizations. As a freelance programmer, I've focused on Yahoo I/M for my I/M needs 'cause there's a decent Linux client.

    But the core issue is that there is no real standard for IM chatting! In the absence of a real standard, ICQ/AIM have taken force.

    Jabber might get there, eventually. Who has submitted the jabber reference to the IETF/IEEE to make it a standard?

    What we need is a IETF/IEEE standard. One that is distributed. Reliable. Cross platform. Based on XML or other widely acceptable format.

    I suggest using a topology much like POP3/SMTP. Your ISP should provide IM service so that other IM clients can resolve you by your email address.

    DNS records would contain an "IM" record along with "MX", etc.

    Include PKI so that you can have "secure" connections that do not go thru a central server, and business will jump all over it since existing IM clients are unencrypted and therefore very insecure.

    Utilizing openssl and other standard libraries, I bet 2 or 3 qualified programmers could come up with a functional reference in a few weeks.

    So, why hasn't this been done?

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