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Microsoft and AOL Fight Over Instant Messaging 381

Fizgig writes "Is it just me, or do they only call for standards when they're not winning? Microsoft just released their MSN instant messaging client, which could talk with AOL Instant Messenger users. AOL then changed the protocol slightly to break Microsoft's. Now Microsoft is calling for standards. And they somehow managed to mention Linux in a story that really has nothing to do with it. " Update: Around 11:30 p.m. EST, Keefesis noticed that MS had released an updated version of their Messenger client that works with the latest version of the AOL product. This MSN page has details.
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Microsoft and AOL Fight Over Instant Messaging

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    No, lynx is a damn fine web browser. And amaya is ok. IE is an abomination, a humungafucking monstrosity that tries to be an operating system.

  • Quick...get those slashdot blinders on.

    Yahoo, Prodigy? Anyone, Anyone? I guess it's okay to screw over anyone, as long as MS is in the group too.

    btw...Microsoft already worked around [news.com] AOL's block


    Slashdot should change it's motto to:

    If you don't have anything mean to say about Microsoft, don't say anything at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Man.. why can't they just use IRC protocols .
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Geez, are you guys amazing!! Here's a situation where AOL is clearly in the wrong. They've not only acted against MSFT, but also Prodigy and Yahoo. They've shut down a hack (anyone remember Samba) for just one reason - to exploit a proprietary protocol and userbase. They're not participating in the IETF standards process, either. This is *clearly and undeniably* against everything we're supposed to be rooting for - have you read "the cathedral and the bazzar?"

    But since this is slashdot, the only cool thing to do is to post against MSFT.

    Get a brain, there are *other enemies* out there!!!

    If AOL could have bought Linux, they would have...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    That you even have the experience to make such a statement proves that you are ritually unclean. You must be purified.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think some of you are screwed up, thanks to the way slashdot colors its reporting. A quote from the article linked to by slashdot:

    "Deanna Sanford, MSN's lead product manager, said Microsoft invited AOL to join the Internet messaging standards effort two years ago, but AOL refused."

    And I remember reading somewhere on MS's page, over a year ago, a comment on how they would like to see a standard. Note that this was before AIM was in full swing, and before AOL owned ICQ.

    Slashdot makes it sound like MS just started clamoring for a standard, when they have been clamoring for a standard for years. Yet everyone is echoing that MS is pissed that AOL has blocked them, so now they are wanting standards. Try actually READING the article before you start quoting from it next time please.

    BTW, I found it rather ironic that this article, which does have a pro-ms feel to it, came from a netscape site.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Heya,

    I used to work for MS. (Don't worry, I came to my senses and am now a paid open source developer.) I actually took the job because they told me I'd be working on open standards for instant messaging. It was pretty tough to believe, but I had to go see. Lo and behold, my managment structure actually supported my work in the IETF. Read the archives at http://lists.fsck.com/rvp Notice that people from microsoft engaged in open discussion of what they wanted out of an instant messaging protocol. Note how many AOL/ Mirabilis folks got involved in the requirements discussions. In this one instance, I believe that the evil empire did the right thing. Really.

    jesse@fsck.com (a co-author of the impp requirements draft)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    want true competition? want true innovation? Free software is the only way to go.

    Microsoft is asking for open standard to instant messaging. Even if we have one, there is no fair competition. As an example, IE tactics on Navigator. Microsoft will use Windows as the leverage to kill off AOL's product. With a standard, AOL will be out in the open in Window land for MS to shoot down. AOL propriety instant messenger is it own protection holding up against Microsoft's product.

    Microsoft just want the standard, so makes it much easier for them to compete with AOL by using Windows. Like they always had.

    Linux is the sand box where we all play fairly, own by no one. Yes, Linux is our future.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Has anyone thought about how many different platforms the AOL IM works on? There are at least 5 for linux alone, not to mention the Java version, and the PC-based version. If Microsoft wants to dictate some standards, and is truly honest about wanting all chat software to interact based on those standards, do they include cross-platform independance?

    They say in the article that they want any user to be contactable, just like phones, regardless of manufacturer. Does that also include users that happen to use a unix or linux platform? What about a Mac? I highly doubt it.

    They'll support standards as long as they are PC-based, and running on the Microsoft OS (whatever flavor happens to be current at the time).

    Hardly standard, if you ask me...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What are we gonna do tonight, Brain? Try to take over the world!!!

    Although MS has missed the boat in terms of capturing user base (AIM, ICQ) This market is very volatile... As soon as the following is done, MS WILL win...

    (1) Make MSNM Simple+Fast, with a CLEAN interface and a set of features along the lines of Block User; Send File; Send through server + option for (winamp-like?) plug-ins... (voice chat; video; white-board...)

    (2) Bundle it with everything they ship...

    (3) =) Make it part of Windows2000 - with a default feature of "run-upon-connecting-to-the-net"

    (4) Make "Choosing Your Online Identity" part of the Windows2000 Installation wizard...

    That should get them about 30 percent of the market share within 3 months... and the rest will follow "to be able to chat with friends" Watch AOL be the one to cry "foul!" then....

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's called IRC. IRC has nearly every feature of any of these new fangled messaging applications including (but not limited to) ICQ, AOLIM, etc. Whenever a new messaging client comes out, it has all these new features... that have already been integrated into IRC for years.

    IRC development is already decentralized as well, any new feature is developed in the server first, then the client. And most servers are open source.

    My friends, family, etc, all keep telling me to get ICQ or AIM but I always say no. I already have a real-time chat program, and a presence on a few channels.

    In my opinion, all these new messangers are just trying to reinvent their own proprietary wheel.

    --Eil.
  • Well, any decent IRC client can connect to any decent IRC server. I know of no client or server which isn't fully compatable. There are seperate networks for several reasons. For one thing, there is no reason to have One True IRC Network. In fact, having only IRC network would take one hell of a setup and would probably be full of spammers, newbies, etc. et al EFNet, which is the biggest IRC network out there, and is known to be...interesting at times.

    Personally, I consider it a feature. Each network is different, and I can easily connect to any one I want to at any time. They're run by different people, have different features and setups, and serve different purposes. DALnet, for instance, has "Services": NickServ, ChanServ, and a few others. Some people like these. I, personally, don't. Some networks allow as many bots as you want, some outlaw bots altogether (most of the time each server has a different policy). Different people like different setups. Also, some servers are "specialized" opposed to the Big IRC networks which are for all kinds of things. Slashnet, for instance, attracts a certain kind of crowd. Likely, whatever IRC network some Cracker group sets up with attract a certain kind of crowd. In a GPL'd project I'm involved in, we have our own IRC server that we use to discuss things, and it's very handy to have full control over it and have access to any channel we want. Not to mention the fact that we're free to have as many handy bots around as we want. :)
  • Well the problem with using talk is that talk needs the hostname/IP of the users machine to begin a session. In the world of dyanmic IP addresses there's it's rare to know the network address of who you might want to chat with. Plus talk is just one to one chat, no instant messaging or file transfer.

  • Everyone here seems to think EFnet == IRC. That's obviously not the case. There are several other networks out there like Undernet, DALnet, and AUSTnet, and of those three examples, the latter two have nickname registration services that have options to prevent unauthorized people from using your nickname. Oh well. At least you people know the difference between the client and the server (unlike so many newbies who say "hey dood ill see u on mirc!!!11")
  • I thought about that a while ago.. building IRC messaging into an AIM or ICQ client, or even just a standalone messenger. It could do pretty much everything ICQ and AOL could, and even have different modes for messenging depending on if the users want to chat in single messages (ICQ), AIM-style chat windows, or ICQ-style chat windows. I'm not aware of any programs that would do this right now, does it sound like a good idea to anyone else?

    The only program I can see would be how to take care of nicks. The most intuitive way would be to use addresses like MagPulse@efnet. The client would have to connect to all the different IRC servers though, or at least connect and disconnect, a la GameSpy.
  • Interesting - AOL is using Microsoftish tactics against Microsoft.

    I didn't expect to say this anytime soon, but AOL seems to be in the wrong and Microsoft in the right this time. Certainly Microsoft is being hypocritical (see other's posts about Samba, etc) and it would be nice to see them shut up until they mend their ways, but AOL seems to be wrong by changing the protocol in order to break MS's client.

    Fair is fair; you can't condemn MS's wrongs while supporting AOL's, even if AOL's are against MS. Either condemn them both or support them both, but don't say that AOL is somehow more saintly even though they're using the same tactics as MS does.
  • We (the slashdotter's) should not root for AOL just because they are giving M$ a taste of their own medicine. I thought that we were above that sort of thing. Why do we hate M$? because they are evil. They use and manipulate the markets and their consumers. They produce shoddy software... But do we cheer when they are losing a battle? Yes if the battle is being fought correctly


    Hold on a sec, What would you do if You had a product that cost multiple thousands a month to keep working and I wrote a product to use your servers but then showed my ads? AOL is proabably paying alot for the bandwidth to be able to have AIM user not using AOL. Now MS creates their product that uses AOL resources. Are we just supposed to say hey thats ok, what would be the next resource of someone elses that they stole?


    E-mail works because everyone shares their resources. one of the reasons spam is such a problem because its people stealing resources from ISP's. This is close to the same thing and IMHO would be in the exact same boat if MSN ever put ads into thier client.

    LBS
  • If you look closely you will notice that IRC standard was designed very badly.

    For what it was designed to do, it was designed pretty nicely.

  • It'd be sweet to see a GPL'd cross platform solution come out of the Free Software community.

    As long as the protocol itself is freely implementable/extendable under other licenses and not hindered by any licensing restrictions of the GPL, it has a chance of working.

  • AOL also didn't integrate ICQ into netscape (they stayed with AIM for that). why?!

    Smart move, actually.. Once they start putting ads in all their products, they'll have even more products to sell ad space in instead of just having only one big product to sell ad space in.

  • And here we have Something For Nothing Boy. And what's he saying? "Make sure you don't include a license on your work that would prevent me from stealing it, cause I can't code, but I need to release a commercial version!"

    You can license your work, but if the protocol is not openly implementable across different licenses then it is proprietary to GPL-based platforms and therefore unusable by larger segments of the computing community.

    How would you feel if you wrote a nice platform independant messaging client, with plugin modules to easily add support for AIM, or ICQ, or any future protocol, etc, and then MS came, took the code, released it in future versions of windows, and sold banner space, increasing their revenues while denying users the benefits of the OSS that you wrote, and without even paying you for it?

    I'd feel pretty good, because, in the end, they'd still have to give me credit for it. :)

  • by iota ( 527 )
    Yes... Unlike AIM, ICQ, MS-ANYTHING, IRC actually has a long-running standard based on an RFC. Imagine that... using a standard to base your programs on. Who woulda thunk it? Why not just re-invent the proprietary wheel every time you make a product?

    jason
  • This is a beautiful example of why the most frothingly rabid Free Software advocacy is good and proper.
    Look at instant messaging- sort of like the cell phones of the Internet, annoying but some people absolutely love it- but guess what? There are major security lapses in established products, there's no way to audit the code or have anybody audit the code to track such security holes, and the proprietary vendors are fighting each other to death without caring a tinker's damn about their customers. It's a complete power game and has nothing to do with providing value to customers.
    Next thing you know, they'll have the whole field tied up in patents and nothing will be compatible with anything else.
    This is horrible. It's disgusting, and it's hopeless to expect these large corporate companies to act any other way. MS is inciting people to ignore AOL's TOS. AOL is churning their messaging format to break the MS client. They're not going to stop- internet messaging is going to remain a battleground. MS is probably going to behave more like a good guy in this situation- but can you put a price tag on having a choke-hold on internet messaging? They're not in it for their health, and they're damned well not it in for benefitting customers. It's a vitally important leverage point for controlling information flow, and they will capture it (all of it) at any cost- to use as leverage for controlling even more.
    To hell with all of them. Use the situation to highlight how pathetically little freedom the mainstream computer consumer actually has. If you go with the commercial sector, you have less and less power over your own fate- things are shaping up to really turn the screws. Picture it: "Oh yeah? Well, we'll revise AIM so _only_ the newest clients can use it!" "Oh, you think you're tough? We'll have IE install _our_ client by _automatic_ _update_." "Bastards! We'll put strong encryption on ours and sue you for enticing our customers to violate our TOS!" "Ha, nice try- we'll make our stuff require a _PIII_ with the serialization turned on, and have our clients reference a database at microsoft.com to guard against anyone stealing our users' identities." "Oh yeah? We'll require the PIII too, and patent all variations of our method..."
    This is a good direction to be moving in?
  • That doesn't make it okay. AOL is using the same tactics Microsoft likes to use, so we should oppose AOL using them as much as we oppose Microsoft using them, or else we just look hypocritical.

    "Well it's okay when people do it against Microsoft, but not okay when they do it to other companies."
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Friday July 23, 1999 @10:38PM (#1786787)
    You contradict yourself. First you say that if it was any company other than Microsoft, you'd oppose AOL's tactics, and then you go on to defend AOL's tactics. Either these "security claims" are valid, and AOL's tactics would be ok against any company, or else they are not valid, and AOL's tactics should not be tolerated against any company, including Microsoft.
  • I already have an "Instant Messenger". Some people have taken to calling it E-Mail.
  • If MS had used the open TOC protocol instead of AOL's proprietary OSCAR protocol, AOL probably wouldn't have done much.

    But MS reverse-engineered OSCAR. OSCAR includes a client ID, and unless MS falsifies that to make it look like an official AOL client (which is illegal), it was just a matter of time before AOL killed their client just like every other OSCAR-using AIM clone. Yes, AOL did kill fAIM, etc. by blocking them. The final deathblow was the open (and in many cases better) TOC protocol. The only problem with TOC is that it lacks user searching, otherwise it's always farther along than OSCAR.
  • A couple of points:
    • TiK is GPLd, so anyone interested can continue development, distribution, etc.
    • TiK still functions, I have it up right now.
    That said, I am disturbed by TiK's absence, although the fact that the links are still there indicates to me the absence may be unintentional.

    Back to the subject at hand: *Microsoft* whining about *AOL* not following standards is surreal. Still, agreeing upon a common standard, regardless of who proposes it, would be a very good thing for instant messaging as a whole.

    --

  • Someone posted a patch already. Check the thread.

    --
  • Microsoft, after releasing ?MSN Messenger?, would like to see AOL?s ?Instant Messenger? protocol standardized so that Microsoft?s new entry into the field can interoperate.

    ?Standards are important,? said an unnammed Microsoft spokesman. ?It?s important that Instant Messaging be standardized, just like the world wide web is.?

    --

  • It was intended to be parody.

    Obviously, I failed to get my point across. :-(

    --

  • Yes. Although the web page is missing, the tarball is still there.

    http://www.aim.aol.com/tik/tik-0.74.tar. gz [aol.com]

    --

  • Funny that they were worried about a standard so long ago, considering the fact that they really haven't done any serious work on making a client of "instant messaging". For a long time, it was just AOL's AIM, Mirabilis' ICQ, and more recently, Yahoo's instant messaging client. And then they start cloning AOL's protocol, then complain when AOL changes their protocol?

    I'm not saying AOL randomly changing their protocols is a good thing... but considering how many times Microsoft has done the same with their own products, they should either put up or shut up.
  • Well, that sounds about like standard M$ embrace/extend procedure. That sounds like just what they'd do... that's what they did with IE after all. (Of course, I think what they did with IE was even lousier... but that's another rant, I guess.)

    Guess this makes me a pundit too, huh? It's contagious! ;)
  • Well, I doubt the LICQ guys are making money from their development (at least, probably not directly). From what I understand, M$'s messaging client has advertisements in it - so they're directly making money from advertisers by providing a messaging client and "borrowing" AOL's protocol.

    I'm not advocating AOL's action. However, I can certainly see why they did it.
  • Well, not to rain on your parade, but Microsoft's not exactly known for doing the Right Thing(TM) for the end user... in general they're much more interested in doing whatever will most benefit their pocketbooks and share prices. The day Microsoft does what's best for the end user is the day I fly south for the winter (and I do NOT mean in an airplane!).
  • Well, the AOL spokesperson has a point. You have no real idea what Microsoft's client is doing with the password you give it (unless you do 'netstat' or similar while it's running) other than what it's claimed to do. For the average user, they're not going to have any IDEA that maybe M$'s messaging client is doing a bit more than it advertises. Maybe it doesn't do anything more, but it's hard to say. I wouldnt trust it, that's for damn sure.
  • I'd like to see them mend their ways - don't get me wrong. However, I have a hard time believing they'd mend their ways so easily. They have a simply pitiful track record, and I believe that they'll continue following their track record until there's some (very pressing) reason for them to do otherwise (like losing tens of millions of dollars because no one will buy their crappy products anymore). I see no reason to believe they'd do anything new though - there's no money in it.

    Also, like you noted, rather ironic that something so simple took them 2 years to develop.

    Maybe I'm just being an insufferable prick... but to some degree, turnabout is fair play.
  • Well, of course they love standards, when they're not winning. When they're already on top, standards be damned, they're going to do it their own way, and you'll damn well pay for it too.

    They only love their precious 'standards' when it suits them...
  • Well, this IS just the first version. If it's successful enough, v2 will be coming down the pipe. And you KNOW what that means...
  • Massaging area? Oooh. Do they do Swedish massages? I could use one right now, I think... :)
  • Well, this sounds like the kind of thing that's been said about Microsoft products before - the first version's small and lightweight, and everyone thinks it's just wonderful. Then later releases start stuffing in more fluff and bloat, steadily growing in size.

    I wouldn't mind being wrong about this.
  • AOL is trying to shut out others to protect it's turf. MS is crying about the same tactic it has used without mercy for years. From the comments I've seen, people are unsure of who's in the right here. The soultion:

    Hate both of them! AOL is wrong (and possibly stupid) to try to cut off communications with others and spread FUD. Microsoft is wrong for complaining about the very tactics they use everywhere else.

    AOL does have a right to say who can use their servers. If they want to block non-AOL connections, that's their business.

    The fact that MS managed to modify their client to work around whatever AOL did indicates to me that AOL made changes to bar a particular client software rather than control who can use their server. That's a different matter entirly.

    In spite of thinking that AOL was wrong to do that, I still don't feel sorry for MS. I just hope they standards war themselves to death soon so the rest of us can put together a real standard.


  • Lynx *IS* a damned fine browser for striping out the bullshit jackasses like yourself insist WWW pages should force on people. It also converts HTML to plain text better than anything else.
  • I can tell you about the DCOM wire protocol spec, but please make the effort to set up a slashdot account and log in - i.e. don't post as an Anonymous Coward.

    If I could have gotten an e-mail address, I would have e-mailed you your answer directly! People here on slashdot *want* to help each other - please let us help you by facilitating the paths of communication.

    DCOM uses so-called Microsoft RPC to connect COM objects on separate machines. Microsoft RPC is a derivative of DCE RPC - the RPC standard which is part of the Distributed Computing Environment.

    DCE was created by the Open Software Federation (OSF) in the late 80's to compete with Sun's ONC (Open Network Computing) environment. Sun's simple and ubiquitous RPC implementation is the lynch-pin technology in ONC. DCE is a more complex alternative. It is not open source, but I believe all of the protocols and interfaces are openly documented.

    Microsoft RPC uses the same wire protocol as DCE RPC - I believe it may still be exactly the same, but I'm not sure. They did change the C API, but I believe Microsoft RPC clients can still call DCE RPC servers, and vice versa.

    So the answer to your question is rather simple. If you want the wire protocol spec for DCOM, it is the one for Microsoft RPC, which is the same as the one for DCE RPC.

    The Open Group, the descendant of the OSF, is the current keeper of the DCE specs, and now also the COM and DCOM specs, BTW.

    Have a look at:

    http://www.opengroup.org/dce

    and your journey will begin. Good luck!
  • by Zopilote ( 1446 ) on Friday July 23, 1999 @03:41PM (#1786808)
    As one of the CNET articles on the subject began to say, it seems that companies dislike standards when they are on top and dominating the market, because standards make it easier for their competitors. But they love standards when they are the underdogs and want to force the major players to let them into the market. It's called human nature, and it doesn't matter whether it's AOL or Microsoft, or Sun or whoever.

    Incidentally, Microsoft just happens to be especially shameless in doing this.
  • I always thought that AIM, Yahoo! chat and the other castoffs from ICQ were shoddy clones when compared to ICQ. ICQ has so much more on these guys, PLUS its userbase is humongous. I use it for inter/intraoffice communications because it works over the net, it's fast and (stop laughing) as open as a closed protocol can be, with people on the ICQ dev list breaking down V5 and V6 protocols.

    I'd rather see open ICQ protocols than a standard based on AIM. UGH! Hopefully AOL doesn't have any plans on turning ICQ into AIM.
  • It's not GPL, at least the version I have (0.58).
    # Copyright (c) 1998 America Online, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
    #
    # AOL grants you ("Licensee") a non-exclusive, royalty free, license to use,
    # modify and redistribute this software in source and binary code form,
    # provided that i) this copyright notice and license appear on all copies of
    # the software; and ii) Licensee does not utilize the software in a manner
    # which is disparaging to AOL.

    I don't think the "disparaging to AOL" part invalidates it's open-sourcedness, although it is a bit amusing. I suppose I can't bad mouth AOL using Tik. AOL must have done something very specific to disable the MSN version because Tik version 0.58 still works with no problem.

    You can still access the old Tik page from google's cache [google.com] (a very nice feature IMHO), although probably not for long. All the links from it are active but the original page is not.
    --
  • FWIW, you can get http://www.aim.aol.com/tik/tik-0.75.tar. gz [aol.com] and apparently all previous versions as well.
    --
  • I just downloaded Tik 0.75 and it is indeed GPL. It does not include the "disparaging to AOL" line, and in fact places no restrictions on the use of the software at all. It does provide terms of service for using the AIM service itself, which are pretty reasonable if a little humourous ("You will not
    decompile, reengineer or otherwise copy the Service.") Wow, I didn't even know I had the "Service's" executable.
    --
  • t's worth pointing out that the free Linux AIM and ICQ clients may also one day be illegal to use, if AOL makes it known that connections from
    these clients are not welcome.


    It's also worth pointing out that the Tik (A Tcl/TK AIM client that works on any thing Tcl8.0 will run on) is distributed by AOL and comes with a licence that allows use of the AIM service. That's not to say that they couldn't break compatibility. They still could, but it would probably break their own clients as well. They did take the Tik page down but the links from it are still up, see discussion elsewhere in these comments [slashdot.org].

    --
  • They cry for a standard when it's not theirs. What about clearly MSOffice file formats, hmmm?
  • OK, the original UNIX talk was a little bit shaky, but messaging has undoubtedly reached the ultra supreme level of upper perfectness with the release of ytalk. No banner ads even!
  • This time I'm afraid I have to side with them (don't get me wrong, they're still an Evil Empire, but this is simply too much). First, because standards are a good thing. Second, because AOL's modification of their own protocol for no other reason than breaking Microsoft's clients is no different from what Microsoft did with Windows to break DR-DOS (granted, AOL still allows connections from other clients, but for how long?) To bash Microsoft when it purposely breaks a competitor's program is one thing. But to not bash another company that also does it, even if the broken product is from Microsoft (which is by definition broken anyway), is hypocrisy.

    Granted, Microsoft's motives in releasing this client are doubtless sinister. They want to control this market too, and will somehow manage to Embrace and Extend this protocol to do it (don't ask me how they'll do it without being obvious). But they're right to blow the whistle on AOL for this action.
  • First off, I'd like to say both protocols ("Instant Messaging" versus "IRC") are designed differently. While I speak, there are 48,855 people on EFnet, which also shows me how much you actually researched your claims. (Although 40,000 of those are probably idle clients or bots.)
  • Under a firewall, executed locally...
  • If Microsoft's AIM-compatible client were simply using AOL's protocol to communicate between two machines outside of AOL's dominion, then AOL would have no recourse in the matter (except maybe to claim that MS illegally reverse engineered the AIM protocol--not likely).

    But that's not what Microsoft did. Microsoft created a client that interacts with AOL servers to communicate with AIM clients. On the internet, your computer is your castle. If you own a computer on the internet, you are allowed to accept or reject any connection for any reason. It may well be illegal for Microsoft to continue to distribute a client that interacts with AOL servers against AOL's explicit wishes.

    The AOL AIM client license agreement contains a clause permitting connections to AIM servers run by AOL. The MS client contains no such permission. Microsoft has no legal entitlement to distribute clients which interact with AOL servers.

    It's worth pointing out that the free Linux AIM and ICQ clients may also one day be illegal to use, if AOL makes it known that connections from these clients are not welcome.

    As for myself, I use IRC and Unix talk. Why rely on proprietary software using proprietary protocols connecting to proprietary machines under questionable legal foundations, when superior open solutions have long existed?

    Finally, I cannot help but resist noting that Microsoft is one of the worst offenders in the area of open/closed communications standards. The closed Microsoft Office file formats are the most formidable protection for their profits and monopoly. For Microsoft to complain about AOL's closed communications protocols is the height of hypocrisy.

  • by acb ( 2797 )
    Have a look at RFC1312. It provides decentralised instant messaging using user@host addressing.

    Which is good for multiuser UNIX machines; for dialups it could be extended to use a directory server and/or redirector (akin to a mail server).

    It's a pity 1312 wasn't more widely adopted.
  • It must be the chocolate. Its a very powerful mood enhancer combined with the effects of sugar. Its so common and chocalate is legal. If M&M's were outlawed, only outlaws would have M&M's and it would be sold at a city street corner near you.

    And why do the masses not use ytalk? Its the best!
  • There's always someone trying to simplify the rationale for critism of shody software manufacturers. Its natural to defend the underdog. There is nothing wrong with that, but please try to come up with some better logic than that! "Most people at Slashdot hate Microsoft because they are Microsoft." I have reasons for disliking Windows and use it at work. I could try to explain to you why Windows software causes manufacturing scrap and downtime to you, but I'm judging from your logical bias and am afraid you might have problems comprehending my plea. Its not a simple issue. Its a battle. Its hell. I use Windows (not a choice!) at work.
  • wow, that almost sounded like a flame. sorry, I don't know what got into me. please forgive. it must be the os i?m using.
  • by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Friday July 23, 1999 @03:31PM (#1786824) Homepage Journal
    I found this entertaining how they are battling themselves into the ground. My favorite quote was bashing Microsoft's regard for security and privacy:

    AOL charged that MSN Messenger poses a security risk to its users because they are asked to type in their AOL username and password. "They're goading people to reveal their password just like hackers do,"the AOL spokeswoman said. "We always tell our customers to never give out their passwords. Microsoft is going against what we've tried to do."
  • > and dropped MSIE as its browser for Netscape

    No they didn't, they own Netscape but don't use it in their products.

    They had an agreement with MS that they had to distribute IE in return for getting an icon in the 'Online Services' folder on the Windows desktop.

    Ironically the only reason the 'Online Serivces' folder appeared in Windows was so that they couldn't be accused of trying to make MSN a monoploy but to get your icon on the desktop you had to distribute IE encouraging that to become a monopoly.
    --
  • Well, either MS has fixed and released the updated version, or AOL decided to cooperate. Anyways, it's pretty cool that you can use MSN messenger to talk to AOL/AIM users. But still, the MSNM is too basic - no file transfer, no chatrooms. Until these two features are implemented in the MSNM, I don't think I will switch...
    Now, if only MSNM can get themselves to work with ICQ :)

  • Ok, here is the solution to ALL disputes. Everyone on the planet earth declare Billy the winner, and king of the world. Then and only then will this nonsense stop.

    :)

    haha.
  • by edgy ( 5399 ) on Friday July 23, 1999 @03:58PM (#1786828)
    Why don't we all just use IRC? Great instant messaging protocol. You can get rid of people, talk to as many or as few people as you want, etc. etc. etc.

    We don't need no steenkin AOL or MS bull.

    BTW: Did anyone every take a look at MS Comic Chat, MS's bastardized version of IRC?

    Quite amusing at first, but it's really annoying after a while. Reminds me of Windows actually.
    1. Microsoft will get an open standard
    2. Microsoft will have a pretty crappy messenging program
    3. They will release version 2.0, slightly better
    4. Version 3.0 will ship with Windows 2k and be a fairly good program, even if it doesn't exactly conform to the standard
    5. Version 4.0 will come out and have a lot of kewl features, except you won't be able to use it with any other IM program
    6. MS will have the IM market

    Damnit, now I'm a pundit! Watch it kids, or you'll end up like this too!

    Am I really off base on this? Isn't this what happened with just about every market MS gets into late?

  • IRC is a standard, go check the RFC's. But that's been covered already, so I won't get into it.

    The reason IRC servers bog down so bad is they are connection-oriented (TCP). Everything sent between IRC servers and clents is a static connection.

    Change the TCP connection to handling just control information, and use UDP with an ACK protocol on top of it, and you have a lightweight, mostly-connectionless communications standard.

    Even this change would comply with the IRC RFC, if I remember correctly, since I don't think it specifies the transport for the protocol, just the contents of it.

    Comments?

  • First Gates is like "Psh. Internet. Wotta fad.", then as soon as it really takes off he's gotta toss in his two cents worth of code and get a few greenbacks.

    Then Gates goes "Psh. Java. Wotta fad", then when developers really start to toy with it heavily, he hasta get a license, make his incompatible version, and grow some lettuce from that.

    Now the messenger. And as someone had mentioned earlier, ya, he'll prolly add some super spiffy features of his own for his product, yet only after standards have been somewhat defined but of course. But some questions remain...

    What about NetMeeting? It already has file transferring, chat, whiteboard, voice and video and does it fairly well mind you. Are they going to drop that like a rock in an attempt to market something more familiar to a consumer, or what?

    And is this "revenge" against AOL? AOL is currently squashing MSN in the consumer ISP battle, and dropped MSIE as its browser for Netscape not so long ago. Is this Microsoft's subtle (or not so subtle) way of fighting back?

    On the bright side, at least Gates has never really made these killer apps right off the bat, least other companies get to live a little before MS steps in with their own concoction. Gates certainly isn't the master of the obvious.

    As for Linux being mentioned, it's nearly a buzzword. I'm waiting for Al Gore to start mentioning it randomly in his speeches. ; ^)

    --Me
    -------------------------------------------------
    If porngraphy is the practice of taking photos of the nude, and a pornographer is the person that does it, does that make the photos pornographs?
  • Hotmail is merely the interface. You cannot send mail through it: you can generate and read mail that is being sent and received through a MTA.

    In Hotmail's case that's qmail [wow, MS uses the same software as I do... qmail on Hotmail, Apache on parts of MSN] which you can easily see when reading the headers:

    Message-ID: <19990723040816.91017.qmail@hotmail.com>
    Received: from 209.26.94.126 by www.hotmail.com with HTTP; Thu, 22 Jul 1999 21:08:16 PDT

  • It'd be sweet to see a GPL'd cross platform solution come out of the Free Software community. AbiSource has it right - get your app available for Linux, Mac, BeOS, and Windows, and people just might start using it. I'd love to see the wind taken out of both AOL's and M$'s sails by a GPL'd IM client/server. And when they start putting ads on the proprietary clients (and of course they will - surprised it hasn't started yet...) a free GPL solution will look really attractive. I'd guess that the programming would be relatively trivial, but getting the mindshare would be a bit of work.

    How much server horsepower would something like this take, though? I guess that's the problem w/ IM - you need a central server(s) to keep track of who's online?

    On to another thought, how long 'til AOL shuts down all the Linux ICQ clients because they don't display advertisements?
  • Well, I tried to look at the TiK page and it's gone. That doesn't bode well. Granted, the client code may be GPL, but if AOL owns the servers, and they own the protocol, then they can render a GPL client like TiK useless pretty damn fast!
  • I am currently working on an IRC to AIM gateway. I even have a fully functional one that I now use as my main AIM client. You send it commands like /msg aimserv signon mynick mypass and /msg aimserv send buddy Hi, what's up?. It supports chats, the directory, everything. It even converts HTML to text. I am working on having it convert HTML bold\italic\underlined\font (FONT COLOR and FONT BACK, that is) tags into their IRC equivalents (which can be turned off on a per-client basis.) Then I want to change it so it would be /msg AIM-buddy Hi, what's up? instead of the current model. And I'd like to have it convert DCC to AOL file transfer. I'll release it under the GPL (it's written in Perl) in a week or so. E-mail me if you want the source now.
  • The TiK client, which was written by AOL in TCL/Tk, comes with full protocol documentation. It also comes with source. It used to be available from http://www.aim.aol.com/tik/, but that is no longer functioning (probably because of this nonsense.)
  • Yeah, I think it's unnecessary. That's why I use epic4. And why you can /msg aimserv color 0.
  • I'm at a loss to figure out exactly how to respond to this. The sane side of me wants to say that AOL should play fair and support some kind of messaging standard. However, AOL is probably right to be concerned about security issues with the username/password thing, not to mention they've pretty much hit the nail on the head when they say that the standards thing is simply a MS smokescreen. It's not like Microsoft has ever really wanted any standards (unless they get to set them). Look what they did to Java!

    On the other hand, I admire AOL (as much as it hurts me to say that I admire AOL for ANYTHING) for flipping MS the bird this time . . .

  • What was that bit about The Road Ahead, Bill? Missed the boat again, didja?

    Unfortunately for Microsoft, despite all their cries and screams about "The Freedom to Innovate," they really aren't all that good at innovating.

    They've missed the boat, and since they can't buy it, they're trying to hijack it by pushing their way into a closed standard product, and then screaming bloody murder when AOL changes their protocol.

    The bottom line is, MS will only support open standards when it benefits them. Numerous other folks have already mentioned Java, JavaScript, HTML, MS APIs, file formats, and the like, all of which MS has either developed on their own and kept quite secret, or they've tried to "fix" the standard to benefit themselves.

  • We all have our OS preferences, but I think m3000 had a point. There are some people who hate MS because it's the big bad wolf, or because they think it's the "cool" thing to be anti-MS. I don't claim they're a majority. In fact, I suspect such people are a minority on Slashdot (where people usually just dislike the often crappy software and/or dubious business practices). But, there are always some irrational people out there (kinda like the ones who think Linux must suck because you don't have to buy it or go to WaReZ sites to get it :)
  • by JungleBoy ( 7578 ) on Friday July 23, 1999 @03:29PM (#1786847)
    I'm scared of any standard that they come up with for instant messaging. We need a viable open source intant messaging protocol NOW. Unlike AIM or ICQ it should be decentralized. I've spent a little time thinking about this, but I'm not a heavy programmer.

    Everyone should have an IM address like or the same as their email address. Some sort of IM server should become a standard service like popd or imapd. You punch in someones IM address and it goes to your IM server. Your IM server then finds their IM server by piggy backing off the MX record in DNS, it would be better to have a unique record type. Their IM server says "yes they are online" and patches your IM client to their IM client. When both parties are online, a client to client connection could be established, if the requested party is not online then their IM server could store the message until they got online (ala ICQ). This would be a decentralized comodityized method that could be implimented on any platform.
    --
    ...Linux!
  • From what I understand all messages from AIM user to AIM user have to go through the AOL machines, why should they have to support all of MS's users too?

    AIM should stay closed unless they open the server software and JoeISP can start their own AIM server and sell AIM banner space.

    If I had a chat server like that, I wouldn't want MS to run their clients through it AND get the money from the banners. Someone has to maintain the machine and pay for the bandwidth. Let MS do that themself.

    This isn't like E-mail where the bandwidth and servers are spread throughout the planet.

    Oh,. and the last word. Go figure no one is using their chat client. No one seems to use their play software unless they cram it down the collective public throat. (What happened to ComicChat again?) You better belive this new MSchatboy will be avalable on the desktops of Win 2000. One year later it will be the most popular chat client with the BORG collective. Every Windows magazine will give it 4 stars and rate it a "must get". (No one wants to loose that MS advertising dollar)




  • The scariest (to me) thing to come out of this is that the TiK [aol.com] and TNT [aol.com] open source clients have disappeared from the AIM Web site [aol.com]. That alone doesn't make me feel very good about the new owners of mozilla. As much as I hate to say this, I think MS is right on this one.

    Also, geeknews.net [geeknews.net] has been keeping up pretty well on this.

    Here's a news.com article, too:

    Another interesting thing is that MS released a "fixed" build, which AOL then broke again. Round and round we go.

  • >But AOL is all over the place

    >> You just answered your own
    >> question. AOL is everywhere, not as a single
    >> entity.
    >>
    >> Good or bad, irrelevent.

    it's relevant to it's stock holders, I guess. and to people like me who would really like Microsoft to loose this perticular battle. having many diferant products that hardly interact, IMHO is a recipy for disasture.


    --------------------------------
  • by eshefer ( 12336 ) on Friday July 23, 1999 @04:11PM (#1786871) Homepage Journal
    As much as I hate saying this, I think AOL alwredy lost the war. I don't know if microsoft will end up dominating the massaging arena, but it seems like the likely scenario.

    A year ago I though exactly the oposite of this. buying Mirabilis (ICQ) was probably the smartest thing AOL did, but I feal they missed the boat compleatly with ICQ. ICQ over the past year became Bloatware full of unnecacery features. Yet the most annoying glitch of the ICQ systems STILL hasn't been dealt with (it's security and privacy, obviously. The is NO help from ICQ when you account gets hijacked by some Script Kiddy (I know, I had my 102541 account hacked, and yes, that really WAS my number, I asked ICQ for support in retreaving my account and they opted to do nothing. It took a local reporter who wrote a story about this to make then delete my own account.. well thats better then nothing, I guess.

    But even wierder still is the fact the AOL has left AIM and ICQ together side by side, and opted NOT TO put the two together. I really don't understand why one company should have two versions of the same type of aplication, really stupid. It looks like with them buying mp3spy, they will have three programs that have somewhat similar functions, whats that all about?!

    AOL also didn't integrate ICQ into netscape (they stayed with AIM for that). why?!

    Yahoo, for example, are smart. every function they get through aquisition is integrated into the main database so one user can control all of them (stocks, geocities, games, ets). AOL decided it would leave everything as it is, and are confusing thier own costemers. If they don't change this, they will loose the battle. Amazon also do this pretty well. But AOL is all over the place. I simply do not understand what they are doing over there.


    --------------------------------
  • by crispy ( 14415 ) on Friday July 23, 1999 @03:52PM (#1786878) Homepage
    We (the slashdotter's) should not root for AOL just because they are giving M$ a taste of their own medicine. I thought that we were above that sort of thing. Why do we hate M$? because they are evil. They use and manipulate the markets and their consumers. They produce shoddy software... But do we cheer when they are losing a battle? Yes if the battle is being fought correctly. We can't justify the means just because the end (M$ loses) is good. AOL is clearly in the wrong here because they are inhibiting the open source/standard approach to software. They needn't worry about losing users if their's is a supperior product. And if it's not the best one then an open standard will pave the way for others to write software and servers that can do a better job. The end result is better software for the consumer. Now, isn't that what we all really are after?
  • by berk ( 15379 )
    They'll take the standard and botch it up so it is no longer standards-compliant most likely.

    talk has been around a long time. :)

  • 1) The most significant group will bash Microsoft because, well, they're Microsoft.

    2) A vocal minority will try and bring some sanity to the discussion by arguing that AOL's tactics hint of an attempt to become a very Microsoft-ish company.

    Who wins is anyone's guess.

  • MSNM looks harmless now, it's just a way to get more people communicating and interacting, right? WRONG. This will be like Internet Explorer - at first it was just a joke, but then version three came out and everybody stopped laughing.

    MSN Messenger (what a unique name) has started out like a joke, but before long it will come with every version of Windows and offer features far beyond what AIM has. Oops, you can't see what I'm doing because you're still using AIM. Better get the cool new one that lets you do more stuff! Heck, MSNM already lets its own users communicate with AIMers, but not vice-versa. How long before it totally makes AIM unnecessary?

    AOL is justified to do what they're doing, AIM isn't a standard. If it was a standard, Ms could do like they did with the W3C and pollute the standards to favor their products. AOL has let Yahoo! get away with cloning AIM because the Y! one has the same features as AIM and works well with it. MSNM is just a plot to pull people away from AOL. More power to them for blocking it!

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday July 23, 1999 @03:34PM (#1786901)
    It was really rude for AOL to cut Micorsoft off like that. Almost as rude as... as... as changing SMB to break Samba! What kind of company would do such a vile thing!

    Also, one wonders how much reverse engineering the poaching required on the part of Micorsoft, ever the stalwart defender of Intellectual Property rights.

    Finally, one is struck by this quote from the Wired coverage [wired.com]:

    MSN Messenger is the company's first entry into an already popular category of messaging services.

    What was that bit about The Road Ahead, Bill? Missed the boat again, didja?
  • The whole MSN messenger idea disgusts me to be honest. It's just another case where Microsoft makes their own version of an already successful application, and somehow eventually forces everyone to use it. They want the ICQ/AIM user base, and they'll get it eventually. Don't be suprised if this MSG messenger or whatever comes with Windows 2000 and sooner or later all Windows users have to use it. Why can't they allow anyone to have anything that's popular? This is not innovating. AOL knows this, and they're probably worried that the same thing will happen to AIM/ICQ that happened to Netscape, so I don't blame them for their response.
  • I've never used AIM or ICQ. I used talk/ntalk (when I cared for this sort of thing.

    Advantages:
    • standards compliant
    • widely available
    • no additional IDs necessary (uses email addr)


    Can someone explain why ntalk is sufficient or, if there is some little niggling reason, why we couldn't just add to ntalk rather than re-inventing the wheel?
    ---
    Put Hemos through English 101!
  • #DEFINE PLAYING_DEVILS_ADOVCATE
    #include "and_no_not_the_movie_although_it_was_excellent.h"

    /*
    Alright slashdotters, I'm going to go against 99% of you and say "I'm with Microsoft on this one." Why? Just because discussion is good. :-)
    */

    First, AOL scares me. Like previous posts have said, they cater to newbies. But they also cater to a worse off group. The uniformed. AOL puts thousands of people on the net a day who have no idea what nettiquite is. People have no idea what a computer is and how it works, and AOL lets them jump onto this mysterious void called "The Internet" and do stuff. Meanwhile, AOL indoctrinates them. People start thinking the Internet is a big happy fun loving place, where you click on the pretty buttons type in stuff, and *BOOM* you get a happy reply. AOL users are forced to use a half-baked software product because that's what AOL tells them is out there. Replace "AOL" with "Microsoft" in the previous sentance, and you see an argument stated many times on Slashdot.

    Yes, that's right:
    AOL:Internet::MS:Operating Systems

    "Ok," you say, "AOL is as bad as MS...so why do you say that you're going with MS??"

    I'm looking at the track record of the two companies. AOL seems pretty consistant. Deliver junky service and mess up billing. Microsoft, on the other had, has proven to deliver sucky products. But they've heard the cries of the people, and they are (very slowly) responding. Their web browser keeps on improving. Win2k crashes less than NT which crashes less than 95/98. Microsoft products are improving, which means, they are starting to listen to what people are saying. They're starting to take steps in the right direction. Whenever I've heard of people complaining to AOL in the hopes of change, AOL has been less than hospitable.

    Another item: MS is working with other people to establish standards for internet communication. They at least made the effort to include AOL's populace in their work...and AOL stuck their packet sniffing nose up in the air at them. MS at least made the effort to work with others.

    So, by a nose, MS edges out AOL in my /* constructed */ opinion. So now, I ask you, the readers of Rob's creation, can you honestly say MS is the evil one this time?

    /* My real opinion? I'm touched that you asked...

    Both companies suck, and I can't believe they're both squabbling over small stuff.

    I have some advice for each company tho:

    MS: Kill marketing. Beat them with the Office97 paperclip if you need to. They're forcing you to realase software when its not done. Elminate them, and NT has a chance of becoming respected among the *nix community.

    Sun/AOL/Netscape: Sun, I'm sorry you got stuck with those two. Drop them ASAP.

    */
    --------------------------
  • OK, so as I understand this, what happened is that MS basically wrote their own Instant Messenger, that communicates with AOL's IM. Well, so what? Currently, I run LICQ under RH5.2. LICQ isn't supported by Mirabilis, and they don't provide any help to the developers. The developers figured out the protocol, and wrote another copy. Since this seems like what MS is doing, I have zero problem with it. If they figured it out, and are using it, then more power to them.
  • Ok, so *now* they want standards that work... how about writing a browser that reads a standard called HTML properly?

    Boy, you must have a taste for irony... surely everybody here is adult enough to just admit that IE is a hell of a lot closer to W3C compliance than Netscape is? They both suck, but IE sucks less.

    Even AOL/Netscape must think that Communicator is crap, otherwise why would they have trashed the Communicator code base for Gecko?

    or how about one called JavaScript?

    (a) JavaScript is not a standard. (Since when does Netscape set standards? Their "standards" are the primary reason half of the world's web pages don't work in all of the available browsers.)
    (b) IE runs JavaScript just fine - at about twice the speed of Communicator.

    And how about some APIs that work the way they are documented to?

    Huh? You mean the argument's changed from "the APIs aren't documented"? Gee... the argument's evolving... a moving target!

    Sorry, I must have eaten something bad a lunch, 'cause I'm sure in an argumentative mood. Didn't mean to take it out on you. Apologies :)

    Cheers
    Alastair
  • ...but with Hobbes usurping Calvin's authority.

    Microsoft likes to play Calvinball [Ed. note: Calvinball is a game where Calvin makes up all the rules as the game is played and you can never use the same rule twice.] but only when MS gets to be Calvin. I guess they, like Calvin, don't like their own tactics used against them.

    I can hear the cry already: "But you critized MS for using those tactics. To be consistent you must critize AOL for using them against MS."

    Sorry, but as an Old School disciplinarian I must wait for the "eye for an eye" standard to be satisfied before I complain about others using MS's tactics against them. ;)
  • Honestly, I think IRC is not now and likely will never be suited to take over this niche of the online communication market. IRC is well populated, but by tech-friendly people.

    I use ICQ to communicate with my less-computer-savvy friends, some of whom had trouble downloading and installing ICQ on Win9x systems. I can just imagine the chaos ensuing when they connect to an IRC server for the first time from mIrc.

    Aol's AIM is, well, obviously for the same crowd as ICQ. It is, after all, newbie-hunger that most characterizes AOL. Tell your standard AIM user to connect to #ohsoeasy on efnet and, well, see what the response is. Sure IRC can do basically everything that ICQ/AIM can, (perhaps auto-login stuff excluded, though I'm sure there are scripts...) but good ole 'mail' (or better yet telnet mail) can be used quite adequately to send mail. That doesn't change the fact that my uncle will still and for the forseeable future use Outlook.

    That, and to be perfectly honest, I find ICQ easier for simple messaging than the somewhat cumbersome IRC.
  • Check out http://www.jabber.org
  • Every time MS senses a competitve edge they go against industry standards. Take COM for instance. MS knows that once they can get into a market they can bundle that product to the OS and effectivly stamp out competition. Soon we'll get MSNmesenger on our new computers when we buy them. It make sense for MS to create a standard. Once a standard has been integrated into windows MS can change it and the rest of the industry is forced to comply. If, 3 years later, MS desides to change to a proprietary standard they can. That way only MS clients will work on anyones server.

    It's like MS Java. Someone had a great idea and MS decides to steal it. Once they have a market share they can eliminate all competition. Even if they have to take a loss to do it. This is a clear example of MS's attitude that every computer in the world should be running *only* MS software.
  • After the dust settles from the collision of the juggernauts, I think MS will come out on top.
    Though they may use the same bundling tactics that made IE so popular, their use of automatic updating virtually insures their victory. When the update was available for MSNM after the AIM protocol fiasco, a screen popped up in MNSM that allowed me to download the fixed version. This is the same idea as their Windows Update Notification program. With WUN, bundling, and promoting MSNM on MSN, getting MSNM to desktops is a small problem.

    This makes MSNM extremely more versatile. Hypothetically, if AIM were compatible with MSNM, all umpteen million users would need to manually go to the web site on their own initiative and download the new version. AOL clearly was sideswiped by not including this feature, even though automatic update features are very convenient and popular (RealPlayer, WinAMP, Windows 98, virus scanners, etc).

    Of course, some people may dislike windows for the constant updates it "needs", but it is my understanding that Linux users download patches and whatnot quite frequently also.

    Also, I agree that MS's forte might not be innovating, but they are excellent integrators, and that is very important in making a product with a low learning curve.

    And that's capitalism,
    Aaron
    www.ktheory.com
  • As an aside, it occured to me - by free association, I suppose - that MSNM looks so much like MNM - (how most people say M&M) - that I started getting hungry. Then my association got worse: US Military standard equipment includes a single pack of m&ms. Its been standard practice since at least Viet Nam in the USM to give the fatally wounded m&ms as their last taste of life. So now we have AOL AIMing at M&Ms.

    Why doesn't everyone just use ytalk? :)

    (ok, ok, so this really doesn't help the discussion. sorry. :) )
  • by FynadGaelica ( 71785 ) on Friday July 23, 1999 @10:42PM (#1787009) Homepage
    As a note, I installed Microsoft's IM toy and really liked it. It's relateively light, quick, has a nice simple interface. Coming from a company that is constantly criticized for creating bloatware (feature and size, and fairly so!), I think this is a pleasant response to ICQ. No, it's not original... PAL and AIM are fairly similar, but it does improve where AOL and Excite have been stuborn too. And, realistically, we whine that Microsoft is ripping off ideas, but it's no different than what our beloved Yahoo's been doing for the last year (including a very similar product to this, actually). Personally, my only beef with Microsoft's messenger client is the fact that it REQUIRES a hotmail account. When I saw that connected wtih the AIM servers, I was quite happy... I thought that was a big win for Microsoft (to be clear, I have my problems with MS, but I am certainly no friend of AOL.). From the consumer / user perspective, what I want is one nice light client that connects to ICQ, AOL, Microsoft, etc. I know this doesn't necessarilly make business sense for proprietary monopolies, but if they want to call for standards, personally I can put aside the motive so long as it meets my needs and desires as a consumer.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. -- Winston Churchill

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