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America Online

AIM Bots: Useful or Spam? 517

An anonymous reader writes "Imagine my surprise this morning when AOL AIM popped up a window and introduced me to two bots that it automatically added to my buddy list. " Two seperate issues- one is simply auto adding robots to your friends list, which is very uncool. The second is a corporation using bots in an official capacity. This is an interesting trend, although technically speaking, not that far from the eggdrop of old.
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AIM Bots: Useful or Spam?

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  • Meh. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Fraize ( 44301 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:26PM (#14044386) Homepage Journal
    Right-click, Delete Group. Done.
    • Amen. Those bots did not last more than 5 seconds.
    • AIM bot's daily schedule:
      - for(i=0;ibuddies.length;i++){
      - if(!shadylookinggroup){buddy[i].list.add(shadylook inggroup);}
      - get beer;}

      You don't see this coming? I do.
    • Re:Meh. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by am 2k ( 217885 )
      Right-click, Delete Group. Done.

      Well, until they get added quicker than you can delete them (would 50 per second do?). Reminds me of some other well-known message-based protocol system.

    • Re:Meh. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:57PM (#14044773)
    • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nkh ( 750837 ) <> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:59PM (#14044797) Journal
      The true question is: why did my IM client forgot to ask me about those new contacts? I would have denied those bots in the click of my mouse...
    • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Khopesh ( 112447 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @01:18PM (#14045018) Homepage Journal
      Not done.
      Delete the group and close your IM client.
      Now open it again and log back in. AOL messages you wondering why you deleted its bots, though they are not put back.
      Now you're done. Damnit.
    • Re:Meh. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sootman ( 158191 )
      I'm surprised that there's only a few comments so far and most of them say "Eh, just delete them." Isn't that what spammers say we should do about spam? "Eh, if you don't like it, just delete it." Yeah. Great idea. I don't get enough exercise deleting spams and configuring filters all day long, now I get to do it with my buddy list too. Fucking beautiful.
      • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:26PM (#14045644)
        AOL is letting me use their servers to connect to others to chat with. I'm using their resource for free, so yeah, I think they get a little more leeway than a spammer. Spammers tend to only use others resources. Spammers don't usually host email servers for the public for free. Totally different situation.
      • Re:Meh. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ameoba ( 173803 )
        It's the difference between hitchiking & not liking what they have on the radio and somebody sneaking into your house in the middle of the night with a boom box blasting intentionally obnoxious music.

        Even if you couldn't delete them, it's not that big of a deal having 2 extra entries on a buddy list. Maybe if they routinely sent me messages, I'd have a problem but, for now, it's nothing.
  • by Yahweh Doesn't Exist ( 906833 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:26PM (#14044391)
    try swearing at them or asking for sex; a recent New Scientist article found that this would provoke some bots into fighting back :)
    • They have no AI whatsoever. They just do searching on some database. The only word I got them to actually respond to otherwise was hello.
      • by jallen02 ( 124384 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:56PM (#14044766) Homepage Journal
        Actually when I sent the shopping budy "fuck you" it said, "Good grief, I can't respond to talk like that".

        • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @01:45PM (#14045278) Journal
          I had a rather more interesting conversation with it just now....

          [12:43] Shakrai: fuck you
          [12:43] ShoppingBuddy: Welcome. Now you can search for products with AOLShopping. Type main to get started. To read our privacy policy, type privacy anytime.

          [12:43] Shakrai: fuck you
          [12:43] ShoppingBuddy: Hey -- clean up the language and get serious. I'm happy to help but can't deal with that mouth.

          [12:43] Shakrai: go fuck yourself
          [12:43] ShoppingBuddy: Hmm, that's not gonna get you anywhere with me.

          [12:44] Shakrai: i fucked your mom
          [12:44] ShoppingBuddy: OK, I'm searching for matches 4 U. Gimme a sec...

          [12:44] ShoppingBuddy:
          - Search results for fucked mom

            - Get Fucked [$6.21 - $9.99]
            - Grown Up Fucked Up [$8.99 - $13.98]
            - Fucked Up Mess [$8.30 - $13.98]
            - Fucked From Birth * [$12.99]
            - Not Fucked Enough * [$9.72 - $13.98]
            - The Essential Fucked Up Blues! [$10.02 - $13.98]
            - For All The Fucked-Up Children Of [$13.29 - $14.90]
            - For All The Fucked-Up Children Of [$33.99]
            - New [$9.18 - $12.99]

            Here are some related categories: 1. Hardcore & Punk Music, 2. Rock & Pop Music, 3. Miscellaneous Music, 4. Miscellaneous Books, 5. Miscellaneous Non-Fiction Books, etc. Type in the number to use the related category.
    • by ralphart ( 70342 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:05PM (#14045457)
      Has anyone tried "Warning" the bots?

      Perhaps a well-orchestrated campaign would send a message to those responsible for this bit of obnoxiousness.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:26PM (#14044394)
    I could really use a friend.
    • I could really use a friend.

      <bot>have you tried buying one at the store?
      • (dum-de-dum-dum-dum!)

        Share and enjoy, share and enjoy
        Journey through life with a plastic boy
        Or girl by your side, let your pal be your guide
        And when it breaks down, or starts to annoy,
        Or grinds when it moves, and gives you no joy
        'Cause it eats up your hat, or had sex with your cat,
        Bled oil on your floor, or ripped off your door
        And you get to the point you can't stand anymore,
        Bring it to us, we won't give a fig
        We'll tell you
  • aimbot (Score:2, Funny)

    by Descalzo ( 898339 )
    I HATE it when I am playing Enemy Territory and I get killed by a guy with aimbot. I like to play skill, not hacks.
    • But what about those of us that don't have any skill. Think of aimbots as a kind of skill welfare program.

      I'm one of those that has neither skill nor aimbot. Pity me.
  • I noticed this too (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zoloto ( 586738 ) * on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:27PM (#14044410)
    And the first thing I did was delete them. I don't need some "shopping buddy" to automatically add themselves and promote buying over their network. Someone missed the ethics boat on this one.
  • Very uncool? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:28PM (#14044423)
    Their servers, their rules. I can't complain about the cost of the service, after all, and this sure beats getting hammered by popups every few minutes while connected to their system.
  • by Lord_Slepnir ( 585350 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:28PM (#14044425) Journal
    I'm just surprised that AOL has taken this long to begin sending you advertisements via AIM. They have a near-monopoly on IM communications (near monopoly, I know that there are others out there, but everyone I know has an AIM name), and I'm hardly surprised that they have started to send people advertisements via IMs, since they put all of the resources and effort into maintaining the servers that people connnect to.
    • Others have used AIM to try to advertise... though frequently, it's pr0n.

      That aside, at least they made it such that people can develop various clients to connect, so you're not stuck using the AOL version of the client.

      The issue I have is their manipulation of my buddy list. Not only do I find these new "buddies" in there (which I've since deleted), I also find groups in there which I never created either... "Recent Buddies" (a misnomer, IMHO) and "Mobile Device" are the two I've come across. What's so

    • by Wieland ( 830777 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:35PM (#14044508) Homepage
      They have a near-monopoly on IM communications

      In the US, that is. Here in Europe, IM seems to be almost exclusively MSN. Hardly anyone uses AIM this side of the Atlantic.
    • They have a near-monopoly on IM communications (near monopoly, I know that there are others out there, but everyone I know has an AIM name)

      Rumor has it that that's only true in the USA. Apparently, in Europe Microsoft dominates.

      Any /.'ers have more info on that?

    • by Phatboy ( 805714 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:35PM (#14044513) Homepage
      Don't be so sure about that monopoly, it all depends on where you live. I'm in the UK and don't know anyone who uses AIM - everyone uses MSN Messenger instead. Not that AOL isn't in a strong position in the places where they do have a monopoly, but doing things like this don't help them in the markets they don't yet control. Maybe they've just decided that it's not past the average user's annoyance threshold and not going to harm them.
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:39PM (#14044565)

      I'm just surprised that AOL has taken this long to begin sending you advertisements via AIM. They have a near-monopoly on IM communications...

      AOL has 56% last time I looked. 56% a monopoly does not make.

      As an aside, can we please move out of the dark ages of text chatting? Multiple, incompatible formats on different networks, without publicly available bridging is pathetic. Please everyone, switch to Jabber and set up a bridge until it gains most of the market. It's as if MSN users could not e-mail AOL users who could not e-mail Yahoo users. Remember when the internet used to be about standards and used for communication, instead of lock-ins and sending you ads?

      • Back in the day (Score:4, Insightful)

        by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @01:03PM (#14044837)
        It's as if MSN users could not e-mail AOL users who could not e-mail Yahoo users.

        It seems that today is my day to be the token geezer.

        The situation you describe was not all that long ago. Anyone who can drive legally was already breathing at the time.

    • No one I know has an AIM name. Everyone I know has an MSN name if they have something for IM, a few with only Yahoo, and some on Gmail Talk too. ICQ died out, but before MSN it was that one.

      I have over 25 people on my MSN messenger, although of course some of them hardly use it.

      I know not having an AIM account limits the people I can talk with or bump into online, but given what I see coming from AOL and the AOL community at large, that's not really a drawback. Every hear of the AOL.exe virus hoax? Look
  • by ThatGeek ( 874983 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:30PM (#14044440) Homepage
    I see this as the future of advertising. Everyone is now using GAIM or some other alternate client, so people miss all of AOL's annoying (yet profit-generating) ads.

    AOL had to think of something new -- some way of profiting off of their protocol. Sticking interactive ads, that people think of as their "buddies"! What could be better?

    These bots sneak in to your list, pretend to be your friends, and if you send them a message, BAM! Custom ads delivered right to you.
  • Eliza (Score:5, Funny)

    by Racher ( 34432 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:30PM (#14044441)
    How does it make you feel that a corporation using bots in an official capacity?
  • AOL Intruder (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ranger ( 1783 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:31PM (#14044455) Homepage
    I can't say I'm glad I'm the only one. At least now I know it wasn't because I installed AOL Triton. I posted this rant against AOL in the last "AOL Sucks Ass" story.

    I hate using AIM but I have friends who I chat with and they won't use anything else. I use Trillian so I can use ICQ and Yahoo! Messenger as well. I signed in this morning and I get this message from AOL that said "We've installed two new bots ShoppingBuddy and MovieFone. I thought "What the fuck is this shit?" It may have been because I installed AIM Triton preview to see if I could get the video chat to work. This is even more egregious than all the ads and tickers and additional software they want to install on your computer. Anyway I blocked them.

    In the past, I've had to go in and edit some of the AOL files to get rid of all sorts of crap. AOL is about as welcome as an anal probe. They want to block other peoples intrusive software so they can foist their crap on you. AOL's idea of "consumer friendliness" is to come into your home uninvited, bend you over, put an anal probe up your keister, and tell you just how wonderful and lucky you are to have it. Your very own mini-Federal-pound-me-in-the-ass prison in the comfort and safety of your own home. Only 9.95 per month!
  • I for one welcome our AOL robot overlords. And I'd like to remind them that as a writer, I can be used in their underground TIME magazine caves, or on CNN as a robot correspondent.
  • So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by afra242 ( 465406 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:31PM (#14044464)
    I use Adium on OSX and also received this message this morning. The two bots were automatically added.

    I can predict many users here will bitch endlessly about it. The fact is that the service is free. If it means that I have to right click on each of the names of the bots and choose "Delete....", to use this service for free, so be it.

    What's the big deal?
    • Most people think "What's the big deal?" the first couple of times they get spam in their Email. Just right-click, delete, and it's gone, right? Then you start getting 50 or 60 or 600 a day and it's no longer amusing.

      If AOL keeps a leash on the whole bots thing like they claim they will, then it's indeed no big deal. If you log on to AIM five months from now and a dozen bots auto-add themselves and immediatly start sending you ads to refinance your home or buys some herbal V| A GR @, then it might be mor
  • honeypot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chinadrum ( 848282 )
    In a way this will make a honeypot network for them to find new aim worms. If the bots receive random links and nonstandard code from users they can maybe get a quicker lid on an exploit. It would be nice if this had been opt-in though.
  • by NardofDoom ( 821951 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:32PM (#14044482)
    My friend was in a chat room, late one night. He was the only real person in the room, but there were 50 screennames on the list. They were all bots, all trying to get the other bots to click their links.

    Now imagine if you programmed even a rudimentary adaptable AI into an AIM bot, and had it talk to other AIM bots with a similar AI. You'd have them talking to each other, learning from each other. Then imagine if they had web crawlers attached to them, learning about the Internet, communicating their findings back to each other.

    The only way we'd know if the Internet became sentient is if it stepped up and said 'hi.'

  • At IBM we use Lotus SameTime internally as our IM infrastructure. Several enterprising folks have written various sametime bots that allow us to look up acronyms (WhatIs Bot), look up employee info from our directory (BluePages Bot), and others I can't think off off the top of my head.
  • "Robot operators agree not to distribute users' screen names and pledge to only use the robots for their stated purpose, so that AIM users don't face the type of spam nuisance affecting e-mail, Curry said."
    I call cow excrement on that one. With the amount of spam email out there now, the trend will be that spambots will grow in number and annoyance factor. What exactly entails a 'pledge' or an 'agreement?' to these people? And besides, if I want to look something up (such as directions, stock prices, o
  • I use it, occasionally, but usually after I've gotten mail or a phone call that lets me know there's a reason to contact someone. It's just too intrusive to stay on all the time. So something that makes IM even more annoying is just, well, what do you expect?
  • by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrother@oEINSTE ... minus physicist> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:38PM (#14044551) Journal

    Apparently once you've installed someone's software or used someone's product on your computer, they have the right to tinker with your machine and settings at will.

    I was more than a little distressed to find these things appearing on my Buddy List. Like any "feature", don't I get the right to refuse it? Of course the cute little system message tells me I can right-click and delete them, but that's not the point. If you're going to add capailities to something, fine, but give the opportunity to say yea or nay first.

    While not as bad as Sony's rootkit fiasco, it does point out the growing hubris of we, the software users of the world, when we believe that we still have control of how our systems work and how they are configured. It's not just worms and viruses now, but wholesale invasion by any company that feels you're not using their product most effectively. Pretty soon I expect Adobe Reader to ask me "Should you be reading that?" or IE to say "Sorry, no Slashdot for you today!"

    • I was more than a little distressed to find these things appearing on my Buddy List. Like any "feature", don't I get the right to refuse it? Of course the cute little system message tells me I can right-click and delete them, but that's not the point. If you're going to add capailities to something, fine, but give the opportunity to say yea or nay first.

      How much are you paying for this service you're bitching about?

    • it seems like programs changing your settings without consent is becoming more and more common. Yesterday Blizzard released a launcher thingy for World of Warcraft. The launcher scans for cheats and keyloggers etc and has links to the WoW website with news. The problem a lot of people have with the new WoW launcher is that reagardless of your systems settings it ALWAYS launches links in IE and if you have program access and defaults set to not allow IE it changes them.
  • AOL allows people and corporations you DON'T know to add themselves to YOUR buddy list?! Why oh why do people still put up with AOL's bullshit?!
  • They seem to be biased towards video games. The "Shopping" one at least. I typed in "weapons" and got a list of ten or so games. Ditto "Swords". Not until I typed in "authentic swords" did I get actual weapons. Which I suppose makes sense, since you're searching on a computer, and I'd want to see the sword I'm buying up close.

    They don't seem capable of conversation really. They just search some engine for whatever you type in. I haven't tried anything lewd because I don't want to get banned from AIM
  • This one might have seemed like a good idea for the people on aim, but it sucks for people on the show who use it. Think about it, who is always on during the day who would respond to this? Little teeny-boppers and such who will have no idea on the correct answer to any trivia question not dealing with the latest britney spears or ashley simpson album. Ive seen the show and the "Ask the internet" lifeline is always wrong by a good amount.
  • I see no problem. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Oz0ne ( 13272 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:44PM (#14044618) Homepage
    1) You can delete them.
    2) These are provided by AOL, not random companies.
    3) This is a free service, and it's theirs. You have absolutely NO right to complain about their business practices. If it bothers you, don't use AIM or their servers.

    This dose of "stop your whining, you spoiled unrealistic brats," has been brought to you by the grumpy old techy (tm).
    • "You have absolutely NO right to complain about their business practices"

      I disagree, people complain all the time, its part of human nature. If you don't like something and don't complain, how is AOL going to know? It is software, not a piece of art work. It is in AOL's best interest to listen to what people like and don't like in order to create a more perfect method of spamming you (kidding.)
    • by 2short ( 466733 )
      1) I can also delete spam by hand, and I can politely say "No thanks" to telemarketers.
      2) What's the difference?
      3) I can complain about anything I damn well please, thank you very much.

      AOL provides a free service which many find useful. Certainly they have the right to try to make some money off it. But if, in so doing, they make it suckier, I see no reason in the world I should not say "That sucks". If they make it sucficiently sucky, I shall go elsewhere, but I reserve the right to express my opinion i
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm with you on this one. These are services that acutally add value to the AIM platform. Why on earth are we all complaining that they've added features. If you don't want to search for products, or get movie times in your area, don't use 'em. If they offend you, delete them from your buddy list. Don't go complain they shouldn't be adding resources for us all to use.
      Now, if these things start initiating conversations with me, unsolicited, that's going to be a problem, and I will be the first to compla
    • I'm sorry sir, but you seem somewhat comfused.

      The fact that this service is free may well mean AOL feels little incentive to
      respond to user complaints. However this hardly removes the right of said users to complain, especially if AOL suddenly change the operational parameters of the service.

      Certainly, as pointed out elsewhere, complaints provide AOL with a useful source of feedback to gauge public response to initiatives such as this. Since AOL have had past periods of haemorrhaging subscribers you might e

  • Clearly, we need to develop an AIM Slashbot to automatically install itself on AOL executive's computers and interrupt their days with snippets of the wit and wisdom of Slashdot posters.

  • Why can't Spam be useful? I didn't like that AOL added the 2 bots to my buddy list, they could have just sent me a message to make me aware that the new bots existed... but I tried playing around with them, and I really like the added functionality. It saves me a few minutes having to go to or search through the yellow pages which I do a lot of, so I'm happy that AOL decided to add the bots to their network.

    In this case, I think the unsolicited message worked out, but if AOL decides to start s
  • Not on GAIM, yet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jtheletter ( 686279 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:48PM (#14044664)
    Using GAIM here at work and as of now these haven't shown up on my friends list.

    What I wonder is what happens security-wise when some AIM virus (always new ones popping up) manages to infect these bots? When it's just a question of one person's buddy list being used by a virus to propagate, the infection is limited somewhat by the low number of contacts. What happens when the same contact appears in say 75% of people's lists? Granted, the bot is administrated by AOL directly and no doubt has better security in place than your average user or user's bot, but I wonder if perhaps such a wide-reaching target will prove irresistible for virus writers. Just musing, I'm sure some people more familiar with the inner workings of AIM can refute or corroborate this idea.

  • by Chapium ( 550445 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:48PM (#14044669)
    What is actually so unethical about adding 2 entries to your buddy list on a service they provide? I had no problem with it other than being mildly confused 2 seconds before I painfully deleted 2 WHOLE buddies from my list. Seems like such a mild issue to get so steamed up about.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:57PM (#14044775)
    December 2, 2005 (AP Newswire)

    Microsoft has announced a new addition to it's popular MSN Chat service - ClippyBotTM. According to Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, ClippyBot will "be a welcome addition to your buddy list. ClippyBot will watch for common behaviors, and will provide you with gentle, helpful assistance in completing those tasks." When asked about those users who might not want ClippyBot to be added to their buddy list, Gates replied "We are always responsive to the needs of our users. Removing ClippyBot from your buddy list is as easy as editing 13 registry keys!"
  • "My buddy list" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Acy James Stapp ( 1005 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:58PM (#14044782)
    That's where you failed it. It's *their* buddy list, and they're just letting you use it under the terms of the EULA.
  • by jasonhamilton ( 673330 ) <jason.tyrannical@org> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @12:59PM (#14044793) Homepage
    I thought they were useless at first, but if you have a cell phone like the sidekick2 where web browsing is super slow, but AIM works flawlessly, the bot will let you do movie lookups much quicker.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson