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America Online The Almighty Buck

The Business of Instant Messaging 400

willll writes "The Washington Post is running a story about how AOL plans to make money from Instant Messaging, one of the few successes in recent times for AOL. This article includes plans for corporate versions of AIM as well as discussion on some of the state on instant messaging."
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The Business of Instant Messaging

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  • by Lurgen ( 563428 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:16AM (#5430276) Journal
    First post and all, but....

    I have successfully implemented IM at a number of large organisations here in Australia.

    Microsoft decided ages ago to start charging for the service with the release of Titanium (Exchange 2003), so it's hardly news that IM can be profitable.

    Good to hear other vendors are getting involved, but until AOL pull their act together in terms of marketing and security, no corporate IT department in it's right mind would deploy their stuff.
    • by thanuk ( 620203 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @08:47AM (#5431970)
      The great benefit of IM is that it is not controlled by the IT dept.

      There's no requirement to justify why it has to be installed, no limitations on whom you can talk to, no costs in managing it (if the user can't manage it they can't use it), no licenses to purchase. The same account works at home and at work.

      Sure, IT depts love the opportunity to manage it - but this is much more about budget increases and power/control than it is about improving the bottom line.

  • Isnt it funny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:17AM (#5430283) Journal
    that the most trivial application of the internet is the most profitable?

    I mean sending text from peer to peer is pretty much the "hello world" of TCP/IP 101.

    Sure the clients are a little more advanced, but the base concept is the same.
    • Re:Isnt it funny (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SpikeSpiff ( 598510 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:19AM (#5430298) Journal
      I'll disaggree. I think the value of IM comes from presence, and the magic is in managing buddy lists/availability.

      IM is exciting because you can tell who to contact, and whether they are hearing.

      • Re:Isnt it funny (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sporty ( 27564 )
        His point is, AOL didn't invent something like, mp3, or the merge sort, true type fonts or X11. They took a basic net connection, a little db management for buddy lists and a lot of servers to manage connections. No innovation here.
        • Re:Isnt it funny (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @07:40AM (#5431770)
          His point is, AOL didn't invent something like, mp3, or the merge sort, true type fonts or X11. They took a basic net connection, a little db management for buddy lists and a lot of servers to manage connections. No innovation here.

          Like most techies, you've forgotten that not all innovation is technical. AOL used simple technology to create a service that appealed to millions of people. IRC is probably technically more sophisticated than AIM, but it's remained in a niche. Why is that?
      • Right (Score:5, Funny)

        by Mmmrky ( 607987 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:55AM (#5430516)
        If only AOL expanded their instant messenger service. Sure you can type and they can type back, but what if you could actually hear the person you were chatting with? Maybe this could even be done in "Real Time." We could come up with a device so you could walk around the room and talk at the same time without tricky networking setup. We could take everyone's name and give it a number and put them in a big book so that if you wanted to chat with someone and didn't know their number you could look it up. It would even have their address!

        Think of the possibilities!
        • Re:Right (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fuzdout ( 585374 )
          Yahoo already has this on Yahoo Instant Messenger where you can activate "voice chat" and with speakers and a microphone you can talk back and fourth with who ever has the same.
          You can even set up web cams so the other person can see you :)

          • Re:Right (Score:3, Funny)

            by limbostar ( 116177 )
            The 'woosh' sound you just heard was the joke going right over your head. Thank god you're not taller or it may have hit you.
    • Re:Isnt it funny (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lurgen ( 563428 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:26AM (#5430349) Journal
      Try using IM in a support environment, where staff don't always have the option of speaking to each other (especially while in a call, or when they are geographically dispersed).

      In those situations, IM is really helpful - while taking a call, a tech can run a thought past another staff member, can see if anybody else can reproduce a simple fault, all without interrupting the user.

      For those of us in tech support who remember that the user experience is important, little improvements like this can make the difference.
      • Re:Isnt it funny (Score:5, Interesting)

        by _ph1ux_ ( 216706 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @02:10AM (#5430836)
        Yes and more.

        Its a great tool *especially* in an IT environment.

        But rather than IM I prefer to setup internal IRC. The reason? Bots.

        Your bot can learn the things that are common to your IT information environment.

        Whats really nice is say you have an agreed upon standard for IT nomenclature etc...

        You can the hop on IRC (which not to mention works wonders when your IT staff are geographically dispersed) and type in: PDC01-SITE1 (if that was the name of your PDC for example) and the bot can reply with info -like IP etc..

        Or it can make fun of it for you....

        The other really valuable thing about it is having IRC for allowing development groups to be able to hop on and ask offline questions (questions that dont require stopping in at an office - or hitting some IT person up in the hallway)....

        and yet ANOTHER key feature of all this is - LOGGING.

        You can log all your conversations for use in compiling great FAQs - and you can use the bot to this end as well....

        Other than this specific use - I never use IRC... but you IM quite a bit for friends.

        but IRC for IT - IM for users to user communication.

        I would encourage both in any organization, so long as users are aware that all communications are logged on the corporate IM of choice. Whether you setup a policy regarding AIMing and IMing with ppl outside the co is up to you.
      • Re:Isnt it funny (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kragg ( 300602 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @07:15AM (#5431710) Journal
        That's true. It is certainly a helpful tool when the person you want to speak to isn't next to you.

        My company, an IT solution provider, uses IM for the majority of inter-office communications. When you're working on a project with a 50 man team scattered between 3 continents (US, Europe and India (well... Asia. Whatever)), then IM is the only practical solution.

        Emails are ok, but you never get proper discourse. Phones are crap because they are expensive and, unless you record them, unlogged. IM is perfect. No need to be too polite, you can ignore it if you're doing something else, or answer immediately and get a quick understanding of the real problem, and make sure your answer is understood (or vice versa).

        I've worked with a number of clients in recent years, and more and more of them - even the non-tech-focussed companies - are coming around to the idea that IM is an efficient means of communication. As far as I'm concerned it's an *essential* tool for distributed teams. We couldn't have done half the work we do now without it.

        Of course, having said all that, Jabber r00lz.
    • Re:Isnt it funny (Score:2, Interesting)

      I don't think that the magic of the service is in the 'nuts and bolts,' what goes on under the hood, but the perception and mindshare that successful marketing of a simple concept creates.

      If i'm prepared to pay, or have ads shoved down my throat, in order to gain access to a large userbase (all of whom have been sucked in by the same concept,) then it's gonzo marketing at its best.

      Ultimately, though, there does have to be some infrastructure present for this sort of application to work. The model is more 'napster' than 'gnutella.'

      I find it ironic, though, that Steve Case and his minions are getting rich off 'hello, a/s/l sweetheart' messages and other such shit.

    • Considering that you have email, which you can connect to a pager in case they aren't there, the telephone (ah, old faithful) with voicemail which also can be paging you in case you miss an important call, your cell phone which many of us have permanently attached to our ears, and the list goes on and on and on....

      Personally were I running a business this is about the last thing in the world I would bother spending any money on. That's just me though. Maybe there is some great benefit to this that I don't see. Someone make me a case for why I would need to spend some money on something like this. I'm curious here. Doubtlessly there's got to be something I'm missing.
      • by Osty ( 16825 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @01:15AM (#5430615)

        You seem to have missed the point. The technologies you mentioned are great when you don't know whether or not the person is there. However, it's difficult to have a conversation over e-mail or voice mail, and that's where IM shines. IM is not about leaving a message for somebody, but engaging them in conversation when you can't speak to them in person. Yes, you could use the telephone, but you don't know for sure if they're there or not, and that also involves interrupting whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. IM let's you know when somebody is available, and you can ping back and forth without having to walk across the building or stop your work to pick up the phone.

        A good example of IM technology being used in a "business" would be my college job as a computer lab sitter. During each shift, there were sitters at all of the different labs on campus, and we were all in contact through an internal IRC server. It made it very easy to keep in touch with other sitters, and even managers. We could ask questions of the other sitters when we didn't know the answer, and doing it over IRC was a lot less disruptive than telling the user, "Hold on while I call over to another lab." One advantage this system has over IM is that for a small group, we were all in the same channel (chat room, conference, party line, whatever you want to call it), so if one sitter was away from his desk, any of the others could still see the question and help out.

      • Personally were I running a business this is about the last thing in the world I would bother spending any money on. That's just me though. Maybe there is some great benefit to this that I don't see. Someone make me a case for why I would need to spend some money on something like this. I'm curious here. Doubtlessly there's got to be something I'm missing.

        Chat is taken very seriously [] in the financial services industry.
    • Re:Isnt it funny (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FosterSJC ( 466265 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @02:24AM (#5430888)
      Reminds me of the "Snood Effect" []. Also, here. [] (Search: Why Snood Gets No Respect)

      In other words, the real killer apps are simple, addictive, and easily integrate into our current technological life. Tetris did this, (though, admittedly, it was not simple). It does not often happen with non-game applications.

      But consider how different the IM you use now is from the one you used 8 years ago. There have been no changes to the essential nature of the app, just additional fru-fru alterations (rich text, away messages).

      Thus, the real world-sweeping apps (not viruses) are compact, have one or few purposes, and often fill a hole that was there but unknown. Reminds me vaguely of the free long-distance cell phone revolution.
  • Eh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lordfly ( 590616 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:18AM (#5430288) Homepage Journal
    Seeing as the advertising revenue has gone down the can in recent months, how can they expect to make money?

    Are people willing to pay for instant messaging?

    • Re:Eh... (Score:2, Informative)

      Are people willing to pay for instant messaging?

      They're not aiming (sorry for the pun) this at people, they're trying to sell it to companies. Companies would probably be willing to pay for features such as chat history if a substantial amount of business communication is done over IM.
    • Re:Eh... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Elbereth ( 58257 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @01:06AM (#5430573) Journal
      I would be willing to pay $25 for a commercial instant messaging program. For backwards compatability, it should probably implement AIM/ICQ or Yahoo suport.

      I'm not talking about Trillian Pro here.

      I'm talking about a professionally written program that supports both UNIX and Win32 (using QT, perhaps), doesn't crash every few hours (WTF is up with all the crappy IM clients that crash more than Win 3.1?), implements REAL features, has technical support (for those luser friends of mine who can't figure out how to install AIM, even when I talk them through it), and doesn't use ads or spyware.

      Here are the features I want:
      • Cryptography support. Read my history of comments and you'll find out that I usually say that I have nothing to hide. That's true, and I stand by my assertion that the public doesn't give a fuck about cryptography. However, if I could cryptographically sign my IM history, people couldn't weasel out when I cut 'n' pasted their words back to them (yes, I really am that petty; all New Yorkers live to say, "I told you so!"). Also, giving those paranoid EFF guys the option to use cryptography would go far towards getting UNIX adoption of the IM client.
      • Stability. I said it once earlier, and I'll say it again. WTF is up with all these IM clients crashing constantly? Are they written by 14 year olds working in their spare time?! Geez. I hate crappy Windows software. Unfortunately, that's most of the Win32 net apps. I stopped using ICQ a few years ago because they didn't care how often the client crashed, as long as it had a dozen new features in every beta release. This is not how software in the real world is designed! Okay, this is not how software in the real world should be designed.
      • It should look nice and have a cool GUI. Blech. I hate the interfaces in most IM clients. They look like crap. ICQ has too many useless features to navigate through, Yahoo looks even uglier than a GTK program, and... well... let's not even touch AIM or MSN, which actually have ADS embedded in the client! Argh. Talk about user hostile!
      • It should be IM client, and nothing else. Do one thing, and do it well. That means no creeping featurism, like in ICQ. Webcam support is okay. So is cell phone support. But that's about my limit.
      • Portability. Obviously. I want to use it on my PowerMac, Linux PC, and Alpha (R.I.P. DEC). Oh yeah. And Win32.
      • Zero tolerance policy on SPAM. No bots. No porn advertisements. Nothing. I'm pretty sure I can detect this stuff and block it, so why can't Yahoo or ICQ? We're not talking about sophisticated AI here. I hate that crap.
      • Support for modules. Make a bare-bones IM client, then implement stuff like webcams and SMS messaging as modules. Why doesn't everyone do this? Probably because it sounds like something a 14 year old hobbyist can't do! Argh. Crappy win32 software. I hate it.
      • An open protocol specification. I'm not afraid of people cloning my app. If they can do a better job writing an IM client, then my product rightfully deserves to lose market share. I welcome the challenge of competition. Why are AOL/ICQ, Yahoo, MSN, etc so scared of competition? Is it because their IM client sucks? Hmmm. Even better yet, make it an official RFC. I suppose I'm willing to be flexible on this point, because corporate America is so dumb about adopting open software.
      • A real revenue model, not based on ads or spyware. If this necessitates a subscription model, then so be it. Obviously, I dislike that option, but I'd rather pay $5/month than have to constantly run Ad Aware, to see if any new spyware has been installed on my PCs.
      • A shiny retail box. I couldn't care less about this crap, but some of my friends want to go to CompUSA (blech) to buy their software, rather than download it. No, I don't understand it, either. But in order to get these dorks to use the IM client, it's got to be in retail stores.

      I've come to the conclusion that I must write this software myself. Nobody else is going to implement a portable, spyware and ad free IM client that doesn't constantly crash.

      If someone beats me to it, I guess I'll pony up my cash. But I'm sort of hoping to get a free ride on my own protocol specification.

      And please don't suggest Trillian Pro. Thank you.
      • Re:Eh... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gordyf ( 23004 )
        What's wrong with Trillian Pro?

        It's modular, looks nice (well, the default skin is a bit gaudy, but there are perfectly normal skins available), doesn't crash, doesn't use loads of memory, makes an effort to support encryption (although it doesn't sign your logs), keeps the logs in a straight text file (stupid ICQ database! ugh!), keeps all its settings in its own .ini file (no registry crap), keeps your contact list in an .xml file...

        What's there not to like?
        • Re:Eh... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Elbereth ( 58257 )
          My big problem is that Trillian Pro isn't portable. I can't run it on my Linux PC, and I certainly can't run it on my DEC Alpha. I'd really, really like to be able to do that.

          The second problem is that Trillian Pro only adopts other protocols, crashing or not working when the protocol changes. That's not their fault. But I don't want to have to constantly upgrade Trillian whenever someone else changes their protocol specification. I'd like for them to implement an open protocol in addition to the legacy protocols. Once the open protocol acheives critical mass, the legacy protocols can be abandoned.

          My third problem is that Trillian went from being a hobbyist effort to a commercial product. It shows. Instead of a dialogue popping up saying, "I'm sorry, but the AIM protocol has been changed. This requires an update to the AIM module. Click here to update this module now.", I get a crash. "Huh," I say to myself. "I'll just start it up again, and see if it happens again." Yep. It silently crashes. So, I decide to go to and download a newer version. That fixed it. But what if I was a computer illiterate person who had no idea what was wrong? This is not professionally written software.

          My last problem is that Trillian isn't a real company -- who do you call for technical support? Who do you contact for site licenses, and how much do they cost? Do they sell corporate versions that are customizable?

          Like I said, Trillian isn't really what I'm looking for. It sounds like it, at first, but then you realize it's just another hobbyist Win32 program that's trying to become commercial. I don't want that. I want something that has been designed from the start to be user friendly, easy to use, and cuddles the user. I don't need this, but my friends do. They can't handle it when a Win32 program crashes back to the desktop.

          But you do make some good points.
      • Re:Eh... (Score:5, Informative)

        by bytesmythe ( 58644 ) <.bytesmythe. .at.> on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @01:30AM (#5430687)
        Have you heard of jabber?

        Cryptography support.

        Servers currently support SSL, and future versions will allow end-to-end encryption of the conversation itself.


        There are many different jabber clients. Some are more stable than others. Right now, I use Psi, which hasn't crashed on me once.

        It should look nice and have a cool GUI.

        Again, lots of different clients. I think Psi's GUI is nice. It certainly isn't as crufty as ICQ. But YMMV on this one.

        It should be IM client, and nothing else.

        Again, lots of clients to choose from. I don't know what kinds of features they may offer, but I'm sure there's bound to be one suited to you.


        Psi is written against QT and runs on Windows and linux. Not sure about other platforms, but I know there are Java clients out there that should run on nearly anything.

        Zero tolerance policy on SPAM.

        This would be up to the individual jabber server. The only thing I really got spam with is ICQ, though, which is why I don't use it. I don't get AIM spam since I stopped accepting messages from people not on my buddy list.

        Support for modules.

        This I'm not completely sure about. I know the SSL stuff for Psi is a drop in module. You just put the DLL (or .so if using linux) in the program's directory, and when you start back up, you have SSL available. An open protocol specification.

        The jabber protocol is completely open and 100% free. Anyone who wants is able to not only write their own client, but also their own server. Anyone can download the reference server code and run their own, too. It's very nice.

        A real revenue model, not based on ads or spyware.

        How about just free?

        A shiny retail box.

        Can't help ya there.

        Jabber [] apparently stacks up pretty well. :)


        IMO the BEST chat prog for Windoze. Oh, and the "normal" version is FREE.

      • Re:Eh... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Phroggy ( 441 )
        For backwards compatability, it should probably implement AIM/ICQ or Yahoo suport.

        Yeah, and AOL does NOT want you doing that, because they want you to use their client, with their ad banners. There are two AIM protocols, TOC (text-based, documented, limited functionality) and OSCAR (binary, undocumented, reverse-engineered). AOL says using TOC is fine, but you're not supposed to use OSCAR. TOC doesn't let you do things like change your password. Last I heard AOL was exploiting a buffer overflow in their own client to make it return a particular hashed value back to the server, and if the server didn't get the correct response it would kick you offline - so, it was impossible for 3rd-party apps to use OSCAR. Obviously Gaim uses OSCAR now, so they must have backed off.

        Cryptography support.

        Can't encrypt messages if you want to chat with anyone who doesn't use your software. AIM for Mac OS X encrypts log files. Not sure how you'd sign log files in a useful way, since I only ever want to copy & paste an excerpt, not the whole log - but copy & paste is enough to satisfy anyone I talk to that the conversation really took place.


        See above - one reason they crash so much is because they're always trying to stay one step ahead of AOL, which is always trying to get rid of them. And I was told once that the Gaim code is a tangled mess of spaghetti, but that was a long time ago.

        It should be IM client, and nothing else. Do one thing, and do it well.

        Some of the features they add are actually useful, but nobody knew just how useful they'd be until they were implemented. Personally a stock ticker is a retarded thing to put in an IM client, but things like webcam & voice chat support are cool ideas.


        I agree here - why is this so hard? If only Apple had released Cocoa (YellowBox) for win32 and *nix, and everybody started using that. Or if only Qt was free on win32. Or whatever.

        Zero tolerance policy on SPAM.

        It amazes me that AOL hasn't caught onto this, after so many years of abuse.

        Support for modules.

        Might be hard to develop generic module support if you have no idea what kinds of modules might be created. Which feature enhancements need what functionality? Some Apache modules make you patch the source to install them, because if it were strictly a module the functionality wouldn't be available.

        Why are AOL/ICQ, Yahoo, MSN, etc so scared of competition?

        Banner ads.

        Even better yet, make it an official RFC.

        Nobody took it seriously when they tried. []

        A real revenue model, not based on ads or spyware.

        How many people will pay money for an IM client, when there are so many free ones available? How much would they be willing to pay? Are these two numbers multiplied together anywhere near the cost of operating the service, let alone developing it?

        I've come to the conclusion that I must write this software myself. Nobody else is going to implement a portable, spyware and ad free IM client that doesn't constantly crash.

        Please do! I'd like to see what you can come up with. Make sure you release a Mac OS X version - you did mention portability. :-)
    • Re:Eh... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Chester K ( 145560 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @01:24AM (#5430663) Homepage
      Are people willing to pay for instant messaging?

      Absolutely. We run the little-known (and unsupported) ICQ Groupware server to provide IM capabilities for our office of 60 people. Unfortunately, we're starting to push it past its capabilities, and we'd be willing to pay for a good IM server.

      I've looked briefly into Jabber, but none of the documentation seems very mature, jabberd doesn't appear to provide some of the user management features we want and makes only vague references to other jabber servers that might provide different features. As much as I'd love using an open source solution for the job, I can't justify spending my (expensive) time trying to track down how to get Jabber to do what we want when we can just buy an out-of-the-box solution for cheaper.
  • Taxes (Score:4, Funny)

    by kaden ( 535652 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:19AM (#5430299)
    Perhaps they could charge by the lol or 'omg u 2' used on their services? Make money and maybe even improve the interweb a little at the same time.
  • Won't help them. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris_Stankowitz ( 612232 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:22AM (#5430317)
    Why won't it help them? Let me quote from the article:

    "Its core subscriber base is shrinking, its users are being swamped with junk e-mail,...."

    I know one of the reasons family members of mine left was because of the spam. Its insane the crap that gets through to an AOL account. With young members of the family using the accounts it was intollerable. Instead of trying to make money in ways, how about fixing some of the issues with the service and maybe the userbase won't fall. Before long you may start getting new users again. *sigh*

    • Re:Won't help them. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bm_luethke ( 253362 ) <luethkeb@SLACKWA ... net minus distro> on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @01:10AM (#5430591)
      I just switched my uncle from AOL to bellsouth DSL. I have tried for over a year to get him to change and told him he would regret not doing it sooner - but he always said "I've been with AOL for 8 years, I know how to use it and it does everything I want".

      Well, not only has the spam finally gotten to him but two other main problems.

      First is that AOL is oversubscribed in my area so about every thirty or so minutes it drops the connection. He then has to wait a period of time with busy signals. This has cost him recently some very good ebay bids. He collects basketball cards and has missed two cards he had been searching for about 3 years because AOL kicked him before the end of the bidding (one with 1 minute left). If they are not doing this intentionaly it happens to all the AOL subscribers I know here.

      Second is just stability in general. He ran windows 98 - typically he blue screened about twice a month or so. Since upgrading to the latest version of AOL he has blue screened about 3-5 times a week - only when AOL is running.

      He has had DSL for about 3 weeks now - it took less than 3 days for him to feel comfortable with using individual clients instead of AOL's bundle, almost never crashes, and has little problem with spam. Not to mention the speed increase from a 56k to DSL :) I have shown him different clients he can run locally that he could not easily with AOL (it would timeout if you didn't use thier software about every 15 mins or so). He now has good access to binary newsgroups.

      He is now pushing his friends to switch to either cable or DSL. They are as fed up as he is with AOL but they do not know any one that can give them good advice - they do now (I didn't count as they felt that I could not tell them what was easy and what was not - something my uncle thought also).

      I firmly beleive that AOL is going to suffer from this more and more.
  • Pagers? (Score:4, Funny)

    by tcd004 ( 134130 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:22AM (#5430318) Homepage
    What about IM-ing on pagers? []

  • Keep it simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tedDancin ( 579948 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:23AM (#5430330)
    ..While it has no plans to charge consumers for the existing service, AOL is considering selling add-ons such as matchmaking and games.

    It seems like we could be seeing another piece of IM software drifting down the ICQ "bloatware" path. IMHO, as far as IM is concerned, especially when the aim is to expand into the corporate arena, the less features the better.
  • Is it just me, or does IM of an kind seem to be a 13-year-old-girl thing? I couldn't imagine using IM in a company. This just seems completely bizarre.
    • I've NEVER used IM (or on-line CHAT for that matter.)

      It's like flushing your time down the toilet.

      You're right--it's for 13-year-old girls, or FBI agents pretending to be 13-year-old girls []

    • Re:IM in business? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Montag2k ( 459573 )
      I used it in school - a lot. It is great for sending little snippets of code to friends as a sanity check. It's also a great way to stay in touch with friends and family on the other side of the country - you can always tell that someone is there and available to talk, and the conversation is instantaneous.

      I think this would be a great tool for large (think multi-national) companies - it would allow them to bring all of their resources together and I believe it would allow teamwork on a higher level. Of course, this could probably be accomplished with e-mail as well, but IM - as the article said - has that "presence" and spontanaety that really works for good collaboration.

      One last note - I haven't used Netmeeting or similar things yet, but I think it would be a good bet that the way for this type of collaboration software to really get its foot in the door or corporate America is through IM.

      Now all that is left is to get a large acceptance of a nice, open protocol for IM - that is at least the one way it should be more like e-mail!

    • Re:IM in business? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 3dZaphod ( 549761 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:34AM (#5430401) Homepage
      Not at all. We use it 'unofficially' in our company and it's invaluable for tracking which customer site your workmates are at, asking them quick questions that aren't worth the bother of a distracting phone call, discussing stuff in the 'background' while on conference calls - this last one had the unfortunate side-effect once of someone on the conference call not realising they weren't on mute, someone (ok it was me) sent them a funny IM to which they started laughing out loud, for all on the call to hear... oops. Wouldn't live without it!
    • Depends. What's faster.

      Walking across the office to get to communicate with a person.

      Looking up a phone number, then dialing, to communicate with a person.

      Opening an IM window to communicate with a person.

      now mind you, I'm not measuring the time it takes to type out a question or hold a conversation. Just getting to them is faster than ever.

      Mind you, you also have the value of not having to tear yourself completely away from your work. Phones can do this, but it's possible to dial without taking your attn from the screen. Walking over? Forget it. Total context switch.

      I've had to scold coworkers who work 10 feet away to not use IM.. that is.. unless I really hate them.
    • Re:IM in business? (Score:2, Informative)

      by teeker ( 623861 )
      Yeah,it is, but it's true. Our company (a 150-ish person company in a tech industry) uses it pretty extesively internally... turns out half of our supply chain uses it too.

      Our IT staff (read: me) threw fits about it when I first started seeing so much traffic to AOL's servers and discovered all kinds of people had been installing it. Turns out the owner and the president both have it on their personal machines and just gave everybody the go-ahead to install it, quite against my recomendations.

      As much as I still despise it, I am stunned at how many people actually legitimately use it.

      If it weren't being used for legit uses to communicate outside our LAN, then I could get Jabber in the door, but I can't rely on AOL not to screw with the protocols in the future. So it's either risk that, which would naturally be my fault, or endure the ad-supported AIM, security risks and all (exploitation of which would also be my fault). Grr...sorry, I'm beginning to vent...

      All I really meant to say is that it really, truly is gaining popularity in legitimate business. AIM isn't just for breakfast anymore...

  • by IronTek ( 153138 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:26AM (#5430348) Homepage
    Amongst other things, AIM still needs some sort of Quality of Service guarentees thrown into the protocol...thus saving conversations like,

    Tech Peon: Sorry boss, I didn't get the IM informing me I've been laid off due to the tech downturn.

    CEODude: But I sent it via AIM to you.

    Tech Peon: Ah...putting all our faith into AIM streamlining operations, are we?'ll happen!
  • by HohlerMann ( 410170 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:29AM (#5430362) Homepage
    Significantly, this enterprise package will include features that the free consumer version of IM lacks: ensuring that messages are transmitted over secure networks, with the capability to save messages for future reference, for example... On the consumer side... there are no pop-up ads, or other commercial intrusions, to get in the way of communicating. America Online executives fear that charging consumers for basic IM use, which they are not considering, or loading the service with ads and promotions could drive people to use the services offered by Microsoft and Yahoo.
    I'd personally be interested in paying a small fee to get a customizable official version of AOL Instant Messanger per month, maybe $1/mo with corporate features. I understand that there are alternatives [] available [] at this time, but a legal no-ad version (as opposed to the hacks that remove the banner from the official client) with secure messaging (assuming the other party also had the secure edition) would be something that I would consider investing in.
  • It just occurred to me how useful IM could be in a business environment and that while Linux has a number of useful methods of IM that come with the OS, Windows doesn't seem to have a counterpart. Why hasn't MS integrated instant messaging into Windows NT or even Outlook Express?

    Set up like AOL IM, it would be SO SO SO useful in a business environment. It would cut down on so much pointless email and voicemail.

  • Corporate IM has been around for a while, Microsoft includes it for free i their Exchange server 2000 package. It doesn't seem to be doing too well for them.

  • ObJabberPlug (Score:3, Informative)

    by spoonyfork ( 23307 ) <spoonyfork&gmail,com> on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:33AM (#5430391) Journal
    I ran a Jabber [] server at work until corporate provided an IM solution. They chose IBM Lotus Sametime [].
  • so, here are some others for your reading enjoyment:

    MSN Money Article []

    Boston Globe Article []

    BizReport Article []

    On an offtopic note, the new strong bad email is also slashdotted. Anybody got a link for me?
  • by SurfTheWorld ( 162247 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:41AM (#5430443) Homepage Journal
    Here's an idea that I'd really love to see implemented. Imagine if somebody were to come up with a grammar that worked on top of an open instant messaging protocol (jabber?) that encapsulated features useful for developers within an IDE?

    The usage scenario would go something like this: I'm working and have a question about some line of code. I right click on the line of code and a popup menu appears. I select Discuss, and then a side menu appears that lists my coworkers. The IDE uses "cvs annotate" (if I'm using CVS) to see who last modified the line of code I mouse'd over, and highlights their user id in my "Discuss" menu. I click the author (or anyone else for that matter), and my IDE sends an instant message to the other user indicating that I would like to collaborate on The remote user accepts the collaboration invitation and my version of the code appears in their editor window. At that point we can both edit the file at the same time, ask questions about code, or maybe even share a mouse? (Might be nice to be able to point to some code, ask a question, and have the remote user not only read what you are typing, but SEE what you are referring to).

    Anyhow, it's a pipe dream, but man that would be cool.

    • That's a pretty cool idea. Why don't you check out the Eclipse [] IDE, and see about writting the plugin or offering the suggestion. They already have CVS support, so I'm sure a proof-of-concept would only take a few weeks to get banged out.
    • by 1nv4d3r ( 642775 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @01:23AM (#5430657) Homepage
      Allow a simple parody. Is this the scenario you're trying to avoid:

      I'm working an and have a question about a line of code. I use cvs annotate to determine that Bob last modified it. I turn my head to the left and say "Bob, I need help with," which sends him a message that instantly conveys that I would like to collaborate on Bob accepts the collaboration and walks 4 feet over to my cube. He can see my version of the code right on my screen. At this point we can both edit the file, ask questions about the code, and even share the mouse. (Bob not only reads what I type, but SEES what I am referring to).

      It's a pipe dream, but man it would be cool if programmers had social skills.

      Every day I see engineers go to great lengths to avoid a simple 'hello' to each other in the hallway. They send email to people who are close enough to hear it being typed. I used to be that way but am slowly pulling out of it.

      • I dunno, I'd say that 1/2 the time I walk over and the other half I email.

        When you need a one word answer to a question sometimes email is better then getting up and walking. Especially ifwhat you are working on gets in your way of /. ;)
      • Bob accepts the collaboration and walks 4 feet over to my cube.

        Oh, how nice. All your developers work together.

        In many companies, developers might be spread out among multiple sites which makes such "simple" communication rather meaningless. If you've ever tried to debug SQL code over the phone with someone, you'll know that the parent of your post has a good idea going.

      • by silvaran ( 214334 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @02:37AM (#5430926)
        I don't agree with that at all. Imagine an accountant, sitting at her desk, working on a balance sheet, and she gets a tap on her shoulder. She loses complete focus, makes a mistake, and has to take several minutes to get back into things. Her work suffers because she has all these people tapping her on the shoulder asking for help. She's not a programmer, but this situation represents many in thousands of occupations.

        Similar with programmers. If you have a roomful of programmers, they can be the most social animals in the world (I say "could"). But when it's time to work, they sit quietly for hours on end, doing their work. A second of interruption can cause minutes of lost time. Several interruptions during the day and those minutes add up to an hour, or more.

        Instead, you have a small applet/icon on your panel/taskbar that changes color when you have an incoming message. So you can take 30-45 seconds or so to finish your idea so you don't lose it right on the spot.

        There's nothing more startling than a roomful of people, quietly typing away, not much noise, etc., and all of a sudden somebody says, "Hey Bob! What did you think you were doing on line 435 of someprojectmarshal.c?". Everybody loses their train of thought automatically, because they sense a disruption.

        Even if you're used to people shouting across the room or talking to a person 4 feet away from them, it can still be disruptive. You subconsciously pick up pieces of the sentences until your brain gets interested in that and you completely lose focus on your work.

        I don't care if it's 4 inches, 4 feet, or 4 yards. Any special sounds (special ie: talking, not special ie: keypress, tapping, breathing, etc.) can disrupt your work more than you might think, because it's directed, focused, and rarely ambient.

        And these same people who can sit quietly and work can go out that same evening and throw back a few beers, hit on some chicks, etc, etc. Some are geeks, some aren't. But most people would like relative silence when they work.

        (Just trying to debunk your cool if programmers had social skills, though I doubt it'll work).

        And turn off those "UH OH!"'s in ICQ. They somewhat defeat the purpose of silent messaging.
      • From my point of view, 70-80% of the time technical or formal arguments are better expressed in written format.

        This is perhaps even a higher percentage in the case of code, or even pseudocode. This is partly because talking about "{ i+=p/w*x; print("@poit"); i^=2;}" is inconvenient, but also because it avoids confusions by forcing people to put things clearly before "opening their mouths".

      • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @03:28AM (#5431077)
        I'm working an and have a question about a line of code. I use cvs annotate to determine that Bob last modified it. I turn my head to the left and say "Bob, I need help with,"

        and then I remember that Bob has taken his laptop and is working in Geneva this week. I've no idea what his phone number is there, but wherever he is logged in his IM address is the same. So I drop him an IM containing the line of code I'm curious about, since reading out code over the phone is an imappropriate use of the medium. Bob's actually on the phone, but rather than interrupt him, he notices that he has an IM waiting. 5 minutes later, he's off the phone, he types and line of code back, and we're done.
    • You mean an Emacs lisp module for AIM?

    • Here's the "Jabber Enhancement Proposal": ml

      There're tons of other interesting JEPs as well:

      Check 'em out!
  • by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:41AM (#5430448) Journal
    I have used many instant messaging clients over the years, and have only used AIM for very short periods of time. Every time I use it, I am very surprised at what a spartan piece of software it really is; any other messenger is easily more feature rich, so why don't people use them instead?

    I believe that it is this simplicity that is part of what makes AIM so popular. The average AIM user, which never seemed to be very bright to me, could probably really appreciate the straightforward approach AIM takes to instant messaging. ICQ, which is almost the exact opposite, might repulse those same users, but since AOL owns both, then all is good! They are making use of the best of both worlds, it seems.

    However, I currently use Yahoo as my primary messenger, and I have no intention of switching. As far as I'm concerned, Yahoo has found a happy medium, and provides, in my opinion, a much more effecient and useful system than the aforementioned clients.

    What AOL should be afraid of is users migrating away from them if they get too pushy on the dollar, though since they claim not to be charging money for existing services, they ought to be secure in this area.

    Though I'm not a personal supporter of AOL, I do think that they definitely do have a good opportunity for growth, and believe that any innovations they make might help to benefit everyone.

  • Definite niche (Score:5, Interesting)

    by singularity ( 2031 ) <> on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:43AM (#5430460) Homepage Journal
    As more and more employees are using products like AIM to communicate, there is a definte need for some accountability with this communication, especially with security and logging.

    If I call someone else in the company, the PBX system (or whatever else is in use) can be set up to log the call. Email is very easily tracked and logged.

    AIM conversations, however, use a third-party for most of the communication. Logging is not great in most clients.

    The article mentions an enterprise solution developed by IBM to help with that, and I think that there is a market for AOL to get into. Provide a plug-and-play either hardware or software solution that allows internal AIM traffic to remain encrypted on the internal network (internal Buddy Lists and so on) and completely logged. There would also have to be a way for the system to work with other AIM users not on the internal network.

    The nice thing about a solution like that would be that the logging and traffic could be completely internal, and the company could place restrictions on outside traffic (no file transfers from the outside, for example).
  • by Yo Grark ( 465041 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:45AM (#5430471)
    Been struggling with allowing customers access to me when I'm sitting down in front of my pc, and I've done a bit of a test.

    I found that customers who demand my time more is a great thing, makes customer service all the easier, but let's face it, INSTANT MESSAGING is just that. Instant.

    When you say hello to someone, you don't expect them to take 10 min to say hello back.

    When you leave a voicemail, you expect a reply in one business day unless you mark it urgent. With email you expect a response back what? Half day?

    I equate an IM an IMMEDIDATE priority even if I'm busy with something else.

    Personally, I have seen customers only let down by me not able to keep up with IM customers fast enough.

    Great idea, but in the end, the purchasing agents, CEO's with decision making ability and the standards committee's don't have time for me, let alone IM me.

    Any other account managers successfully integrate this into their 100-200 customer/month workday?

    Yo Grark
    Canadian Bred with American Buttering.
    • Been struggling with allowing customers access to me when I'm sitting down in front of my pc, and I've done a bit of a test.

      Probably a bad idea out of the gate. IM's primary business use is allowing for more efficient internal communications. I'd never give a customer my IM name as a contact, as I couldn't possibly guarantee I'd be right in front of my computer to respond.

      This is where E-Mail is a far better solution. Best tool for the job and all.
      • The auto-away works really well.

        If I'm not typing for more than 30 seconds, it shows AWAY, which is right.

        And I've been reading good articles in business magazines which shows how IM is actually better than email, in that you can SEE when someone is there, then send them an email.

        Knowing when a customer is there is certainly quite helpful, and in return, they know when you're there.

        I still like the idea personally.

        Yo Grark
        Canadian Bred with American Buttering
  • I have worked for a few companies where AIM was used by almost everyone in the company. Its alot easier to IM you're coworker who is 300 yards away about something. It comes in handy when you dont want to make a phone call or you're on the phone and you can just send an IM to get something accomplished. I remember when my friends saw me sitting on AIM at work they thought i had the best job in the world, I just saw it as part of being at work, plus it was nice to be able to chat with the outside world when you were stressed out and needed a break.
  • by ukryule ( 186826 ) <slashdot&yule,org> on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:48AM (#5430490) Homepage
    I'm sure there must be loads of intelligent, internet-savvy people working in AOL, but are any of them in managment?

    Company insiders are putting together targeted pitches to capitalize on the demographics of the AOL instant messaging community.

    Do you:

    a) Provide as good an IM tool as you can, which allows you to talk to anyone else on the internet, or

    b) 'Capitalize on your community' by providing an inward looking tool which is only any good when talking to other AOL users?

    An easy one to answer that. Now a test. Look through that article, and count the number of times that interoperability with MS/Yahoo is mentioned. Count the number of mentions for open standards for interoperability. Count the number of potential exciting innovations there (IM to mobiles? News headlines over IM? IM as pushed alerts for updated webpages?).

    Does anyone want to predict how badly AOL will muck this up?

  • What Profit? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Metrol ( 147060 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:56AM (#5430519) Homepage
    Did I miss something in the article or what? I didn't see ANY mention of how AOL plans on turning a profit. Not much more than the very old news that there "should" be a way to turn that many eyeballs into dollars. I wouldn't bet on it.

    As to all the folks whining on about how awful IM is in the workplace, I couldn't disagree more. A couple years back our sales force started using IM to message eachother, as it was the only way to communicate while on the phone. This spread to other areas of the company, and has grown in importance to how we do business.

    For example, say a salesman has a customer on the phone and needs detailed inventory data that only the purchasing folks have. Rather than putting that customer on hold, an IM over to the right person and the call never has to go on hold to get an answer.

    Like any other Internet technology, there's a fair amount of non-business related communication going on. This doesn't even begin to outweigh the benefits IM has had at my company. YMMV.
    • Re:What Profit? (Score:3, Informative)

      by $$$$$exyGal ( 638164 )
      The article sure doesn't say much about how AOL plans to make money with AIM, but it did say this:

      Significantly, this enterprise package will include features that the free consumer version of IM lacks: ensuring that messages are transmitted over secure networks, with the capability to save messages for future reference, for example.

      That was on the second page of the article.

  • by tx_mgm ( 82188 ) <> on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @01:02AM (#5430546)
    from the article:

    ...while it has no plans to charge consumers for the existing service...

    phew, alright then. i stopped reading there as that is all i was concerned with. glad they put it close to the beginning, heh. i thought for sure they were about to make ICQ or one of their competetors the NEW number 1 instant messaging program. glad to hear i won't be having to inform my friends of a new screenname on another service.
    as soon as AOL starts charging for instant messenger, I (and probably the rest of the world) will move on.
  • by mickcim ( 455246 )
    What about that advertisement banner at the top of the buddy list? "2.3 billion instant messages are sent around the world via America Online" every day. That means there are a lot of people looking at that buddy list, and in turn that add at the top of it.

    Seems like they are making a good bit selling that add space. Like most other free things making money through advertisement sells like television, radio, and web sites.

    I'm sure there are plenty of companies out there that are willing to pay to have that kind of exposure. Especially if they can reach "40 percent of all Americans from age of 14 to 24."
  • No Spam! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark_space2001 ( 570644 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @01:05AM (#5430564)
    An interesting line from the article mentions that one reason adults and businesses are turning to IM is that email is increasingly filled with spam. This is a great counter point to Barry Shein's interview earlier on Slashdot today.

    Mr. Shein wants to legalize spam and allow ISP to charge for it, a position that I completely oppose. Shein's proposal will result in more spam and flood our in-boxes with even more junk. Meanwhile, users are grabing any technology that is less spam friendly (and not acrane and difficult to use).

  • is if Instant Messaging has become so popular, how come corporations haven't accepted standardization of it's platform (I.E. Jabber)? Everyone's got incompatabilities with AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN, etc. etc. So you've always either got a half-ass client that tries to do them all, or you have a bunch of different ones open all at once to keep all of your contacts happy. Why isn't the Jabber server being used like a corporate E-Mail server, instead of a central server governed by one, multinational company? In my mind, that's just bogus. Would you use to store all of your sensitive marketing/accounting information? I don't think so. So why use a central server for all of your correspondance about the same subjects? Why waste internet bandwidth transferring files to someone 10 feet away from you in the office when you can send it to them through a private IM server? Hell, you can even require SSL connections!! What else could you ask for?
  • There's a lot of money to be made in the IM to SMS arena. Companies like Verizon Wireless [] make tons of money off SMS. At 10 cents per text message, and 2 cents per incoming message, money can go down the drain very quickly. Also, since the average IM message is much shorter than the average SMS message, the amount of money that come in increases. If AOL can promote the use of its servers as means of passing SMS's through between carriers (as inter-carrier SMS is still not ready for prime time in my area), and use it as a means of communication to the home, they can rake in the money. But first they need to negotiate for a cut of the money first. I doubt they are getting a cut of the money from the wireless providers now, simply because the providers are treating AIM messages the same as SMS. But when the AOL domination of the SMS to computer IM market takes hold, I wouldn't be surprised to see them lobby for a cut of the proceeds.
  • an IM for Power Users. Something that doesn't use a lot of system resources. Can support broadcasting to multiple clients. I was thinking something along the lines of NET SEND (for Win32 freaks) or WALL (for *nix freaks).

    I mean, which management would resist an oppertunity to improve communication dymanics of their staff but without reducing productivity by playing with UI (they came from hell I tell you!) uselessness?!

    That's it... I'm patenting this idea and selling it to AOL!
  • AOL/TM actually has the opportunity to take on and whoop the shit out of a number of these companies. The real problem is that the Markeeters and managers are total morons. They think that just doing more of the same will enable them to take on the likes of MS. It is impossible
    So a couple of ideas to the new CEO:
    1. Offer up a contest on the net and asked for new ideas. The top ones get their idea implemented AND a percentage of it.
    2. Do not try and take on MS directly. Do not use their channels. They control CompUSA, Micro Computer center, etc. You can not win.
    3. Build a different system and create new channels. This is eaier than taking on the MS establishment in a head on contest. BTW, that is why you folks are winning at IM.
    4. Port to Linux. Do it now. Quit saying we will do it later. You can not take on MS in their yeard. They own channels, the markeeters, and I would guess the current admin. Make MS and others come to you.
    5. Use wireless in areas that you do not control with cable. This is easier than it sounds.
    6. Quit trying to manipulate MS with what you control. You will lose. MS is winning by simpl buying time . If you stay on MS, even with a hot product than MS is winning.
    7. Fire your current markeeters/sales ppl. They are worthless morons.
  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @01:50AM (#5430774)
    I can't see corporations seeing a benefit from anything beyond the current form of AIM (or MSN, or whatever).
    Those that would embrace it see nothing wrong with using the central servers. That is what enables it to work. If the servers go down, *everyone* knows and understands. Reliability is important, but accountability is more important. If it is obvious to people that it isn't the company's fault, it isn't so bad for the company as it would be if they perceived that the company is too incompetent to maintain their mail server, or else not realize the server is down and assume an important communication goes through that didn't. If companies *really* wanted IM on that level, Jabber would see more widespread deployment.

    On the other hand, a great number of companies don't take IM seriously. The market perception, especially by those in suits, is that IM is seen as a toy technology, for personal use only. At the previous two companies I worked at, any kind of IM client was banned by company policy, it was seen as too much of a distraction. Didn't stop people. The network administrator was forced to 'block' traffic. He then proceeded to block it only to the point where the suits could test and think it was effectively blocked, yet provided people circumvention tips when asked. This is a boneheaded strategy, it is another viable communication form. Even now, when dealing with companies with a problematic mail server who need to communicate with me and I ask if they have an IM service and they seem to find it funny to even think of using IM in such a way. The attitude reflects 'this is a place of business, why would we be on an IM service while working, that is preposterous!'. Phones are for 'instant communication', email is for electronic correspondence, and many suits see that as that, with no middleground to fill.

    Personally, I think IM services are a great thing for business and personal use. It is a great way to communicate without being obtrusive into work. While doing IM, I can do other things while waiting for responses. If on the phone, it is really hard to do anything else but focus on the phone. I've always been fond of Jabber, and wish that it would catch on. I know better though. Suits that have stereotyped IM as a toy are going to be a really hard sell on this I think.
  • Where is Jabber? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cranos ( 592602 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @01:58AM (#5430801) Homepage Journal
    Just a question, but with AOL, Yahoo and MSN all making plays for the Corperate IM market, where is Jabber?

    I know it could really help out in the organisation that I work at as we have offices right across the country and its bloody expensive to get all the execs together for a meeting. If Jabber had Video/Audio support it would be just what the doctor ordered.

    If I wasn't already building something else, I might even take it on myself.
    • Re:Where is Jabber? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MyHair ( 589485 )
      My employer, a Fortune 500 company, is apparently going to deploy Jabber soon. The project is announce, but I haven't been able to get hold of a beta or get the server IP yet.

      Officially AIM and YIM shouldn't be used, but people do, anyway. I never did until I found out all my counterparts in HQ are on AIM, so I grudgingly installed AIM and now I can IM them anytime (it was always hard to catch them on the phone). Very handy, but it bugs me that our messages fly across the internet instead of just the point-point T1 from my building to their theirs.
  • by Rufford ( 167573 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @02:12AM (#5430845)
    What I'm interested in seeing in the IM software is how they are going to set up the hierarchy. Will the sensitive business information exchanged between two engineers designing the next best product be traveling around the internet? Or will AOL release a client/server model that will allow a company to contain their information and optional contain messages from/to the outside world?

    My two cents is that most businesses are more ready to take a Microsoft answer in the all-in-one suite or find a open solution if their staff has the time. Besides, AOL IMer is nowhere near business app status.

    And to those that don't think IMs have a place in business or that people just trade smiley faces all day, you haven't seen how many meetings are avoided by simple online real-time at-your-own-computer-and-chair chat.
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @02:19AM (#5430872)
    IM may look like a service being offered by AOL, but it really isn't. IM could be provided in the same way that E-mail is: through our ISPs. That is, each ISP would run an IM server, just like they are running an SMTP server, they'd use an open protocol, and your IM id could be the same as your e-mail (or maybe not, if you don't like that). That's, effectively, how IM started out on UNIX and mainframe systems, long before AOL or any of the other players.

    It's a historical accident that, instead, we have this kludgy, centralized, closed infrastructure that's owned by AOL and a few other players. If AOL goes away and takes their "free service" with them, all the better, as far as I'm concerned. But we'll probably have to listen to this kind of whining over and over again.

  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @02:29AM (#5430906)
    In 4 easy steps. Follow along if you will. . .

    1. Give the service away for free to everybody, promote its use in companies, etc., so that, after a couple of years, "Nobody Can Live Without It."

    2. Create an agreement with the other major instant message service providers to implement a pay-per-use system each either at the same time or in quick succession, so that there is no viable competition. This way, each of the big parties makes money and there is nobody for the feeble consumer to turn to. --Sure, this is only pseudo legal, (cartels?), but that's never stopped anybody before. And anyway, you're probably a terrorist.

    3. Buy up the competition, bribe service providers so as to ensure low quality, irritating and unreliable service on free systems, and create the illusion that it costs billions of dollars to maintain the internet. Public relate, indirectly advertise, play the 'bleak ecconomic outlook' for all it's worth, and generally tenderize the public like a side of beef so that they'll willingly shell out for something which could easily be as free as water were it not for the creative greedy and their ilk. (And heck, we're paying through the nose for water these days, a vital commodity, and people bought that one, so how tough will it be to sell them on a frivolous toy like AIM?)

    --And AOL facing an uncertain financial future? Suuuure they are. Let's do the math:

    35 million AOL users x $23.90 a month = $836,500,000 Every Goddamned Month

    My calculator ran out of available zeros and gave me an error when I tried to multiply the above by 12, prompting me to institute Lad's Law #3: "A company which produces an over-run error when trying to calculate yearly grosses deserves no sympathy whatsoever."

    I can't believe that stupid article had the audacity to claim financial hard times for AOL. The only reason such could be the case is one of three things; Corruption, Stupidity, or Both.

    4. Ridicule, harrase and Kill anybody who gets in the way.

    Voila! Free money!

    It's not that nobody's figured out how to make money off the internet, it's that only a the top layer of assholes have, and everybody else is just chump-fodder for the show.

    But then nobody has ever accused AOLers of being particularly bright, have they?

    -Fantastic Lad

  • by DaCool42 ( 525559 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @03:51AM (#5431180) Homepage
    I have only one thing to say:

    $ write user
  • by Agent Green ( 231202 ) on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @03:59AM (#5431203)
    I'm surprised nobody really mentioned this great program. I've got an accont on each of the four major IM engines, and I've had no trouble at all with this client.

    Secure IMing, conversation logging, and support for almost all the major features each IM environment has to offer.

    Get it here. []

    And yes, the pro version is worth the $25 spent!
  • IM games ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SlightlyMadman ( 161529 ) <slightlymadman&slightlymad,net> on Tuesday March 04, 2003 @12:41PM (#5433456) Homepage
    The article mentions that AOL may make money by selling games for AIM. I've thought quite a lot about how to implement simple games over IM, and I think it's something that the world's waiting for.

    I think it could be done effectively with jabber server extensions, possibly with a custom transport. If you look at a program like jogger [], it shows how something like this could possibly be done.

    I could set up on my jabber server, and people would choose a handle (, and create an account for it on my jabber server. They could then IM each other at these game addresses, and the commands would be parsed by the transport, and handled by a centralised server & db, then routed to the destination, with any result data (and replied to, if needed). This could also be done through an AIM transport, allowing normal AIM users to play, using unmodified AIM clients (they'd have to sign up for an account through a web site, somewhere).

    So, to give an example, I am I have a friend called Using my standard jabber account (, I IM with the command "rock". This is recorded in the server, then the text "you have been challenged, reply with 'rock', 'paper', or 'scissors'" is sent to, from He replies (to my game address) with "paper", which is processed, then the message "Paper covers rock, ben wins!" is sent to both of our normal addresses.

    This should be simple to implement, but I haven't had the time to do it, on my own. Anyone who would like to collaborate on a project like this, please email me. I also have a few other ideas for more complex games, once a simple implementation is worked out.

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982