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Messaging Software Wars 154

Mark Spencer wrote in to say that since the AOL vs. Microsoft fiasco has begun, the GAIM team has been told they aren't allowed to use the AOL logo and other various terms in their documentation (with certain exceptions), so they have put out a request for new logo in the form of a contest. This comes after AOL has been blocking Microsoft from letting its MSN users send messages to users of its AIM service, and right before IBM unveils messaging software of their own, though that looks to be very business-oriented, as opposed to Joe Random Netuser-oriented.
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Messaging Software Wars

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  • Has anyone else noticed that Tik (the TCL/Tk client) and TNT (the Emacs Lisp client) that AOL developed have been missing from their web site for about a week now? Going to the AIM web site [] and clicking on the links for the above give you an empty page now. Do you suppose AOL's yanked these as well? Lucky for me, I already have the source... 8-)
  • That should've been []. I type too many .com's in a day :)

    Who am I?
    Why am here?
    Where is the chocolate?
  • >The other day somebody was mumbling about Zephyr , an Athena messaging system. I have no idea whether it's suitable, because I've never
    >used it. But I've never used these consumer-based things either. Somebody might want to evaluate it.

    Zephyr is used extensively at Carnegie Mellon University. I find it both powerful and easy to use, and I'm not even very experienced with UNIX; from a user perspective, it seems like it could be an adequate replacement. I'll let someone more experienced/knowledgable comment on the implementation side.
  • There's a good editorial on the San Jose Mercury News about the hypocrisy of both sides in this can read it here [].

    Basically, it points out that AOL is rabidly in favor of "open access" on cable networks, but refuses to allow an open system for others to communicate with AOL members (Prodigy, Yahoo, MS get screwed here, so do consumers). MS, on the other hand, wants standards for instant messaging but not in the areas where it already has a dominant position.
  • my feeling exactly. What is the use of having so many different messaging networks when there is one--email that works fine and everybody can use because it has been a standard protocol for ages. if you want to chat use irc. couldn't they build IM on irc protocol, i assume its because all the scripters and exploiters would take over in a day, which will happen eventually anyway, (look at ICQ)
  • "The obvious downside of this, from a user point of view, is that you may have a number of friends scattered across different servers, who may in turn be stuck using their owns servers because of what their friends have been using."

    That's easy to fix with an update to the namespace. Treat it the way you do email: include a domain in the name. Instead of being ICQ# NNNNN, you'd be icq:// Using URL syntax would allow clients to support more protocols and complex names (instead of just numbers).

    I suppose you could even have DNS records for instant messaging servers. Just as you have MX records for domains pointing to mail servers, you could have IM records point to messaging servers.

    This is not a terribly hard problem. Someone just has to go do it. :)
  • Hrm, I must have been mistaken then..
  • I use Linux because it works. I personally support AOL decision, why? They are in the business of making money, and they compete with others in the same business. I find it beneficial for technology when companies are finally learning how to compete with MicroSoft.
    It allows more competition, which spawns development, and advancements. Not just lame buggy features.

    Microsoft doesn't want a standard, they just want to have access to AOL's IM users. So they can start pumping the 21 million with MS advertisements.

    AOL has not hindered the community in integrating such open source programs such as GAIM. AOL is just defending it's profits and future. That's what businesses do.

    I really like open source, and support ALOT of open source ideals, but I don't see it as the be all, end all solution either.

    Just my $0.00:)

    One last thing, "microsoft haters". What's wrong with disliking Microsoft? A company is only as good as the products and services they offer. I personally dislike them because "I" think there products are poor. Just like I dislike Pepsi. When MicroSoft releases a product that "I" believe is worth a damn I will purchase it. Until then, I like Microsoft as much as I like their products.
  • Oh. I wasn't really aware of how far they'd gotten in the process of drawing up the protocol. Well, that's news to me...
  • i'd love you to make this if it came out for mac too. and another thing, put your e-mail in next time ;-)

  • I know that, at least with zicq, you can't actually see an "invisible" user when they're logged on. However, you *can* see the message when they log off.

    (zicq is a curses-based ICQ clone, and will give the message "Sparty (7335712) logged off. But they weren't online. (Invisible??)" or similar when that happens.)
  • Hmm, a quick viewing of the thirty or so messages at the top level shows only two that support AOL's action, and only a couple more that even say bad things about Microsoft.

    Perhaps you, and the many others who stereotype Slashdot's readers should take an objective look at the responses.

    Yes, Slashdot and the open source community have more than their share of Bill Bashers, but I think you mis-used the word "most". "Most" of the postings have criticized AOL's behavior.

    I think that "most" of us appreciate the irony in seeing such tactics applied to Microsoft, but do not approve of them.

  • This is an excerpt from my Investment Newsletter []:

    So America Online and MicroSoft are fighting over instant messaging. I think AOL is in the right here though. To access the AOL Instant Messenger users, the user must provide his AOL screen name and password to the MicroSoft software. It doesn't take a rocket science to surmise that this could potentially expose sensitive AOL information to MicroSoft. This could also expose other unintended holes to the outside world. I'm willing to bet there will be a cease and desist or a lawsuit filed by the end of the week. To me what MicroSoft is doing is no different than what they accuse the creators of BackOrifice of doing: 9990719.html []

    The case for Yahoo! and Prodigy is somewhat different since they used AOL's publicly posted information to gain access to the IM features of AOL. I disagree with what AOL has done to them and do agree that there should be an Instant Messaging standard but it's not MicroSoft's place to enforce it by hacking around AOL's security. What MicroSoft is doing is hacking, plain and simple.

    "The lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths."

  • please explain why ICQ != talk + write + ftp
    Put Hemos through English 101!
  • Wow, your right, I hadn't really noticed..

    We're still alive, and actively working on it.. Take a gander over..
  • I've always understood that the purpose of Jabber was to be cross platform and cross system, meaning that it will communicate with other protocols such as ICQ and AIM.

    I believe it is being developed with the possibility of adding additional modules for other communication systems as they become available.

    As far as IRC vs AIM, I believe IRC could easily alienate the average computer user. Sure the network of servers is better than all of the servers being concentrated in AOL, but they don't care about that; what they care about is the simpler interface. And to some extent I have to agree with them. Look and feel is very important.

  • "Normal People" haven't heard of IRC. In all seriousness, the largest growing market of people coming "online" are people who want to know what this "world wide web" thing is all about. My father's been using what he calls the Internet for a couple years already, and he hasn't even heard of FTP, IRC, or a bunch of other stuff. And believe it or not, he's the "average user."

    So, there ya go - IRC would solve the problem, it just hasn't been heard of.
  • by Darchmare ( 5387 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @12:47AM (#1782175) Homepage
    Okay - someone out there develop an open-source messaging technology and get it out there. It's obvious that certain other players would rather not play fair.

    I'm not of the 'open-source it or it is evil' camp, but it is cases like this where there is obvious merit to the open-source idea.

    - Darchmare
    - Axis Mutatis,
  • AOL is not and will not be in tune with the Linux community.

    The name of AOL's game is to be the easiest to use at everything it does. Linux is not easy. Therefore Linux is below AOL's radar.

    Common enemy is one thing, but their market is another. And the market is not us.
  • by Simon ( 815 )
    Can anyone comment on the security of these messaging protocols/systems?

    An insecure messaging system used in a business context is less than useless. It's dangerous.

  • Well, at least AOL has a cluepon when it comes to being able to read Microsoft's intentions nowadays. The whole spat over messaging is a prime example of Microsoft using the 3 E's to get ahead, and AOL knows it, thankfully.

    Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish.

  • As far as IRC vs AIM, I believe IRC could easily alienate the average computer user. Sure the network of servers is better than all of the servers being concentrated in AOL, but they don't care about that; what they care about is the simpler interface.

    Sure, but you're talking about the user interface, not the protocol. The UI has exactly nothing to do with whether it's IRC or AIM on the wire underneath.

  • Before everyone starts flaming AOL for this request, just realize they are just prepping for the possibility of a trial.
  • In my opinion, AOL responded to Microsoft's move simply because they *know* that Microsoft never uses open source or open *anything* unless they are not in control. They *will* use it to *gain* control, and then close it tighter than AOL or anyone else ever tried. AOL did in fact have the info needed to access their messenger until the Microsoft move, which they [and I agree] has to be considered hostile, with the end result desired by Microsoft no doubt being total control.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @01:03AM (#1782185)
    Well there are some around. Try Jabber [] which although not finished appears to be quite close to beta.

  • No, the cable networks are privately built/owned by various telecommunications/media companies. And there aren't any laws requiring them to open their networks to competing ISPs (except in a couple of cities). Though AOL and others are pushing to get the law changed so that the cable operators have to allow them to use the cable networks in exchange for some sort of fee. This being due to concern among AOL et al. that the higher-bandwidth cable will attract the customers away from dial-up based AOL.

  • by Lazy Jones ( 8403 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @01:03AM (#1782187) Homepage Journal
    Have you ever read the ICQ messenger license agreement? They clearly state that they want to scan the messages as well as other data (such as files on disk) for information and use it for advertising purposes, as well as selling the information. It wouldn't surprise me if other vendor's messenger software didn't have similar functionality... I stopped using ICQ on Windows because of this and will certainly never use a closed-source messaging client again.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Does this mean that now whenenver I get an ICQ message I will have to reboot my pc?
  • by huh69 ( 57503 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @01:17AM (#1782189) Homepage
    One thing strikes me funny. I would've figured that AOL would be more in tune with letting the Linux community do some of the things they do. After all, both organizations have a common enemy, M$.

    I guess it doesn't surprize me that AOL would request the removal of the logo from this IM, but what purpose does that really serve? It was developed because there were people that wanted to communicate with others via AOL IM. Having their logo there would've been a plus as far as I see it.

    I do have to admit I was proud of AOL for sticking M$ the way they did with their protocol tweaks, but I hope this doesn't mean it's another M$ in the works. Having both ICQ and IM in their corner I don't really see much for M$'s future in the IM market. Maybe AOL should just take it easy. Then again, it is M$ that we're talking about.

    Decisions, decisions, decisions... just get me a reliable communbicating tool so I can play StarCraft and Quake with my friends....
  • The technical SPECS exist in draft form, but as of yet, no predifined protocol exists.. If you want more information, zap me over an email and I can send you the draft RFC's..
  • Just use IRC.

    I can't even think of any clients that don't allow scripting. You can do PGP encryption with simple scripts. Hell, with clients like x-chat you could write a module to do it.

    What's all the fuss with lame messenger clients like aim and icq? Put everyone on IRC servers.
  • It doesn't say they're using IETF's messaging protocol - mainly because the protocol specs still haven't come off the drawing board, to my knowledge. I don't know what protocol M$'s messaging client is using to talk to their own service, but it's not IETF's IMPP (Internet Messaging and Presence Protocol), since it's not finished.

    Don't read in things that aren't actually said.
  • The most exciting one I know of is called Jabber.
  • Probably because they want to help draft the IETF standard (like with some other things - like CSS, DOM, DHTML...) then prove their true colors by providing only a broken implementation of said "open" standard.

    To those who say "Maybe they'll actually do right by users this time", I say this: Maybe, but I think it'll probably be a cold day in hell before they do.
  • I am currently working on PUMP.
    It is secure and will not allow any of many problems that can exist with messaging software, such as spoofing, sniffing, self-authorization, etc.

    It will use PGP for authentication and encryption,
    and will use digital certificates for contact list authorization.

    It doesn't have a central servel, but it works similar to email. (ie

    I'm working on it ( with another guy (
    Contact me if you wish to help or join the project.

    The day Microsoft makes something that doesn't suck,
  • Minor correction.. ICQ DOES offer binary server software..
  • Kinda the point of jabber.. But we're a bit more open.. We also support an IRC transport that allows you to IM thru IRC to/from AOL users, no less!!
  • The AOL part of the GAIM logo has been gone for quite a while - this is not a new development. I'm pretty sure, anyway... :-) I'll bet that in general, harrassment of all of the Linux IM clone developers will step up a notch in the coming days, though. *sigh*
  • This sounds EXTREMELY interesting.. Many of these capabilities would be great things to incorperate into jabber (, and are simular to some things we already have semi-working (digital signatures)..

    Do you have a home page where I could get more information?
  • They're not even ON the drawing board yet.. Merely the requirments OF a protocol..
  • I think you misunderstand what I'm saying. I was just glad to see someone give M$ a taste of their own medicine. I think open source software is the best thing that's happened to computing in a long time (since this was a common practice among UNIX gurus) M$ started the whole thing, which is just a major rip for consumers IMHO.

    Compare StarOffice with M$ Office and you see what I mean, free vs $300 or more for nearly the same thing? And StarOffice is XPlatform, what a joke M$ is... and furthermore how they obtained their dominace is really pathetic. Linux distros don't have that ability, and Linux knew that when he licensed the kernel under GPL. People in the Linux world know how things work that's why things are the way they are.

    BTW, I use RedHat 6.0, and while it may very well not be the best distro (but I really don't have any good comparisons, Debian is the only other one I have any experience with and that's not too much), they have released EVERYTHING GPL, can you say that about SUSE or Caldera? No.

    But I would never knock any Linux distro, they are all great and the fact that you have a choice is what it's all about.
  • There is some, it's called talk.

    I'm sorry but instant messangers don't impress me. They don't offer any or at least not much more functionality than talk or irc messaging. It's yesterday's technology repackaged and sold to the masses.
  • Is the IM's really any faster than normal email?
    How much time and trouble are spent writing little messages back and forth that could actually be used in something productive?
    Is this really something that the OS movement would want to be associated with when it really comes down to nothing more than just another email system that sits on your desktop and beeps loudly when you get a new message.
  • The enemy of my enemy is my ally.
  • Dan Gillmor's Messaging flap makes Microsoft, AOL instant hypocrites [] is great, and No truce in AOL, Microsoft war [] is also worth a read.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    AOL gives away the protocol specs for their "unsupported" service. It's really a very nice gesture -- it lets the hackers write their own clients and have fun, and keeps most of them happy enough so they don't bang on the production servers.

    I'm rather curious about where Microsoft's AIM support came from. Did they get support from AOL, or did they reverse engineer it themselves? AOL Legal has been nice enough not to attack the folks who have reverse engineered the AIM and AOL service protocols, but I can't imagine they'd let a giant like Microsoft get away with it..
  • by met00 ( 72648 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @05:55AM (#1782214)
    1. AOL owns some servers.
    2. Microsoft write software that accesses those server without AOLs permission.
    3. Microsoft releases the software to 20,000 users.
    4. AOL servers are slowed down by this unauthorized traffic
    5. AOL consumers have reduced response time and other problems associated to server busy issues

    Where I come from using software to hammer someone elses computers and reduce their service levels is called a denial of service attack. Releasing over 20,000 copies of software to do that means that the company is knowingly attempting to deny service of registered users of that server access to the resources of the server.

    In simple terms, what Microsoft did was attempt to hijack the services of AOLs server, and now they are perfoming no less than a denial of service attack on those servers.

    Last time I checked, people go to jail for releasing software designed to damage other peoples servers.

  • And just how is Microsoft embracing and extending AIM consistent with open protocols? Microsoft is just trying to do 2 things: Steal AOL's user base, channel them into their own, and set up its own proprietary Windows-only message system. It's the lesser of two evils: At least AOL wants everyone to use their software, and not use it to lock people into Windows
  • I count about half a dozen. What's interesting is the lack of condemmnation of AOL. If the sides were reversed there would be roughly 200 messages on this forum, 90% spitting bile at MS.

    MS would deserve it. AOL deserves it too- why doesn't it occur?


  • I don't know which is more hilarious: AOL claiming they are only trying to protect their users privacy rights or Microsoft accusing someone of using unfair business practices to maintain a monopoly.....

    You can't buy this kind of entertainment...

  • ...just dynamic DNS. talk and write are both based off of username + domain and ftp is host + domain. No static IP needed.

    Put Hemos through English 101!
  • perhaps not so much more than IRC, but talk hardly compares to messaging systems.

    MIT's Zephyr is the shit. (Ok, it may not be MIT's originally, I forget, but that's where I saw it.)

    It's much more like instant, bursty email. ICQ isnt that hot for chatting, but it's nice to be able to fire off a quick note and know that the other person is there, on their computer, and will see it immediately if they choose to.

    Plus, it's much less disruptive to working, since you cna process at your own pace, and don't have to immediately drop something you're doing to avoid missing your opportunity to comment on something. I wish ICQ (or whatever) would support the forum-style messaging (kind of like instant newsgroups).

  • I know that when I was using Java IM if you ran it from an xterm you could see what was send. It was just plain text, infact it was a subset of HTML, you could type html tags in your messages the receive would see the results like B hello /B with the \ would make hello bold on the other users screen
    I always wonder what would happen with other tags
  • * AOL provides the servers, and makes money off the advertising.
    * MS makes money off the OS.
    * If MS OS users use MSN Mess, then AOL does not make any money, and for some strange reason, MS still does.

    MS pleads, open-source, open-source, but do you see MSN mess source posted anywhere? Do you see MSN mess for other OS's? No MS makes money off the OS.

    The yahoo and prodigy made money, but they don't make money from the OS. And at least yahoo's client is not a exact clone of IM 1.0. Hey I tried yahoo's out, and it is really good, and there is a java version for those who want it.

    And MSN mess, is a mess. If you install MSN mess, it INTEGRATES ITSELF, by default. Open outlook, and you have opened up MSN mess, without realizing it. Even after you kicked it off the damn taskbar, it still fires up when you fire up outlook. Talk about forcefull.

  • No, AOL wants to ultimately provide a machine, running NO OS, just AOL software.

    This is pure, unadulterated evil. Make no mistake.

    MS is trying to SAVE the world from this kind of monopolistic crap, and you're all too blind to see it. I know. I work for Microsoft! We're the good guys!

  • I feel that everyone is missing a very important point here. GAIM is not AIM. AIM is based on the Oscar protocol, whereas GAIM (and TiK [], and the Java client, Quick Buddy [], and Tac, and others) are based on the Open TOC protocol. Completely documented, etc, and maybe slightly lacking in features atm but still working. There has been some concern in the TiK community recently as our web page (hosted by AOL) has disappeared, but if AOL is merely asking GAIM to remove the logo but is still providing free servers for a free protocol, I feel that them merely asking GAIM to remove the logo is not very important.
    So yeah.

    Note - above page for TiK does not work afaik - ymmv


  • Yah, but at $20/desk and $5000/server, kinda pricey.. Besides, who's to say that if enough nerds find it useful it won't be 'emulated' in an Open flavor?

  • On the surface it does seem to be a bit hypocritical, but access to incumbent cable lines and access to AOL's IM servers are two different things. AOL using AT&T's cables into the home, where the homeowner is going to choose one or the other doesnt place a burden on AT&T. They got to build those facilities under franchise agreements and will still profit from the use of those lines.

    M$ on the otherhand is outright hijacking AOL's servers and using them to attract customers away from AOL's services. M$ was perfectly free to set up their own servers and negotiate an agreement with AOL to somehow link the two systems. This way AOL doesn't have to pay for maintaing systems that it isn't seeing revenue come out of. What M$ is doing is outright theft of service.

  • I don't think so. They're really different, at least in appearance and implementation. For one thing, AOL has nothing close to kerberos (in functionality or difficulty of installation). The only real similarity is that you send messages in real time to other people online. Their ideas of classes are really different. AIM's classes are just groups that you can put buddies in. Zehpyr's classes are different: for instance, when I was at MIT I was in the "rsi" class. I could zephyr everyone in "rsi" at once. In that sense it was a little like IRC. Can't do that with AIM.
  • At least AOL wants everyone to use their software, and not use it to lock people into Windows

    No, they want to lock them into AOL. No difference. A closed, proprietary protocol that is changed at the whim of a large corporation to inhibit competition is bad. (It didn't just hurt MS guys- Yahoo's and other clients stopped working too.)

  • That's what I thought, too, but if you look at the story on Slashdot, it was submitted by a GAIM author. I figure he would know best.
  • AOL themselves welcomed this.. They did it by documenting the TOC protocol, and setting up TOC in and of itself.. TOC was designed and build strickly for external programs, plain and simple..

    I suppose that slashdot is actually a nestbed for denial of service as well, due to the fact that we release links that tend to bring servers to their knees?
  • didn't AOL release their TOC protocol documentation? isn't that what GAIM, FAIM, and all the other clones are based on? it says on the GAIM page that it wasn't reverse-engineered. so whats the big deal about MS using it? it was legal, i suppose. (on the other hand, we all know what MS is going to try to do, once it has a foothold in the market)

    yeah, i think a good RFC is needed, as stated by many above.
  • Well, because it's statistics, dummy.
    Microsoft thrives on creating statistics, which become a tool for painting a very positive picture of the company by the Marketing geniuses here, in Redmond.

    In fact, the marketing statistics are probably MORE important to Microsoft's success than software sales. Look at the inflated stock prices of Yahoo, Amazon, etc. THAT'S what I'm talking about. Microsoft wants a slice of that. If they can spin statistics to say that Hotmail is taking over 90% of the email market, then - DAMN.

    So yeah, go ahead and make some new Hotmail accounts. Who cares if they're ablatible. Make a million throwaway accounts. Our Marketing folks LOVE you for it!

    Download IE 5, install it, say it sucks and delete it. It still counts as a stat we can use against Nutscrape in the marketing war.

  • Microsoft is using AOL's properity OSC protocol, which is copyrighted and may not be reversed engineered by anybody including Microsoft.

    The Free clients (GAIM, FAIM, etc.) are using TOC, which is fully documented, and you are encouraged to create clients that are compatible with it.

    Microsoft chose to reverse engineer OSC because they felt that OSC users get better service and better features.

    It's too bad they couldn't have gone the TOC protocol method... it would have saved them alot of bad publicity.
  • Microsoft is using AOL's properity OSC protocol, which is copyrighted and may not be reversed engineered by anybody including Microsoft.

    The Free clients (GAIM, FAIM, etc.) are using TOC, which is fully documented, and you are encouraged to create clients that are compatible with it.

    Microsoft chose to reverse engineer OSC because they felt that OSC users get better service (since they are using AOL technology and are viewing the AOL ads that are paying for it) and better features.

    It's too bad they couldn't have gone the TOC protocol method... it would have saved them alot of bad publicity.
  • In addition to Jabber, there is a server/client pair called Teaser and Firecat []. Firecat is in java, so it can be run on any platform with a JVM. It's also based on user@server, like PUMP. I'm not sure how well it works, thus far.
  • Also, other companies were *prevented* from putting in cable lines while AT&T was. Nothing was stopping MS, or anyone else, from releasing an IM service. Those situations are not analagouas at all.
  • I don't know, I guess it's okay if they tell GAIM
    not to use their trademarks. At least the AOL
    people allow them to continue to develop GAIM so that we finally have a decent AOL IM clone for Linux. I remember back when the only thing available was their JAVA client... It sucked.

    Greetings to Rob and Jim and the others too. ;-)
  • by Colitis ( 8283 ) <> on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @01:34AM (#1782251)
    Basically where the ICQ protocol is concerned, it's a case of "Security? What security?". I subscribed to an icq-devel mailing list for a while and to say it was eyebrow raising was an understatement. Amongst other things, features like requiring authorisation (for the non ICQ users among you - you can tell the ICQ service that other ICQ users can only see if you're online if you've authorised them first) are controlled by the CLIENT end. That is, instead of the client saying "is xxx online" and the server saying "you need authorisation" and the client saying to the user "Bugger! They've got to authorise you", what actually happens is that the server says "Yep, xxx is online, but you need authorisation" and the client is not supposed to tell the user this. So if you make an ICQ client, you have to specifically have code in it to honour the authorisation requirement, otherwise it's effectively non-existent. I wouldnt be surprised if the invisible function works much the same way - I should try getting a Windoze ICQ user to mark themselves invisible and seeing if I can still see them in LICQ :-)

    The protocol is also TRIVIALLY easy to spoof - LICQ even comes with the feature to send messages from any UIN. While I've not looked at the source I bet the code that does this is pretty simple. There were plenty of other examples of how bad the protocol was. No doubt some of the ICQ clone developers can go into far greater detail than I have (and maybe correct any boneheaded misconceptions on my part :-) )
  • It looks like AOL doesn't want to be put in the position of being accused supporting of GAIM over some other project, especially if they really have nothing to do with it. Letting the GAIM project use AOL trademarks is something that really could come back and bite AOL in a legal sense.
  • All the messaging programs at the moment suck really badly. ICQ and AIM are both pretty woeful.

    The free software community needs to produce it's own, secure messaging software. Including strong encryption would be a great "selling" point (of course that leaves you with those nice little US encryption laws...).
  • they asked politely - I would assume they want to be able to defend the logo properly, so that Microsoft don't for example use modified parts of GAIM or anything. It seems a perfectly reasonable request, so that "evil" companies don't modify it.
  • I know there is an Open Source IM project out there. I wish I could recall the name. In any case I feel that AOL is unable to advance it's products technologically. MS has an agenda, and IBM is frankly ... inept at this sort of thing.

    An OS IM would mean anyone could have a client and anyone could integrate the IM into other OS applications. It would be nice. I say we find that IM OS Project and start to push it instead of clinging to ICQ or AIM.
  • by Coram ( 4712 ) on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @02:17AM (#1782258)
    I am not sure that this applies equally well in this situation. Have a look at it this way. As things are there are two major providers of instant messaging software/service - AOL with its AIM client, and Mirabilis with its ICQ client. These are both proprietary systems developed closed source and have individually built up a huge user base. Various open source clients for both the ICQ and AIM services have appeared over time, (such as micq, licq, gtkicq, gaim, etc) which have all offered many of the features of the standard versions. The problem with the idea of open source servers is that Mirabilis and AOL would be openly supporting the fragmentation of their hard won user bases. As things are they are not even offering binaries of their server software, and I imagine they are not going to change this in the near future. Making the server side software source (say that ten times real fast!) open would likely result in a large number of additional IM services arising, which is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. It would essentially be like irc, with the ICQ/AIM user selecting a server to log onto when they launch the client, which they must have registered with in advance. The obvious downside of this, from a user point of view, is that you may have a number of friends scattered across different servers, who may in turn be stuck using their owns servers because of what their friends have been using. Open source can have good and bad consequences, in this case I am not sure that it is the way to go as the usefulness of ICQ/AIM services depends on them being used by everyone.
  • 1) Server/client software is made available for multiple platforms, and the servers are set up across the country, with people registering their name/information/etc. The collection of servers forms a single network, so that no matter what physical machine you're connected to, you can still talk to people on other servers.

    2) After a while, the servers become bogged down, and either go down, or lose connection with another server or group of servers, essentially splitting the people up depending on what server they're connected to.

    3) A few people get sick of the bad service and decide to set up their own servers and connect them together, possibly modifying the server software to give additional features.

    4) Eventually, everybody and their brother is running a network of messaging servers, and many people have accounts on multiple networks.

    For those of you who haven't been on IRC for six years or so, this is basically what has happened to it. With the exception of unique logins/passwords, IRC is pretty close to an open source messaging service. A few of the IRC networks have set up bots to do the login/password work so that people can reserve nicknames, keep channels in order, etc. I'm not certain whether or not I'd want to see the possible open source messaging service end up like IRC, but I'm leaning towards nay.

    - coug_

  • Hmm, then why does M$ require you to be registered with Hotmail to use the service?
  • Uhh, I'd use it, but I don't have your e-mail, oops, I guess being anonymous sucks.

    But if you want everyone to use it, you should/must port it to many different OS's. Linux, Be (please?), mac, Windows (yes, yes, I know.)

    Good luck, if I could code in anything but C & pascal(woohoo) (and both badly), I'd help . . .

    hasta la pasta
  • TiK is great! And for storing the config locally? Goto Tools, General Options, Store Config. You can store your config locally, on host, or both. I think that's what you meant, because everything else is stored locally, under ~/.tik
  • AOL has released the TOC client/server protocol, but not the OSCAR protocol which AOL's Windows client uses. The TOC and OSCAR clients access two different servers. If AOL really wanted to play games with Microsoft easily, they could just kill off any support for TOC clients and stick with their unreleased OSCAR protocl. Of course, that would also kill off support for TiK, and Tac, and GAIM, and whatever other TOC clients there are.

  • Zephyr is also used pretty extensively at MIT. I don't claim to understand its architecture, and what documentation there is for it advertises itself as outdated. But it does offer some useful features, including:
    • The ability to send messages to other users (much like AIM, from what I remember back when I was an AOL user and had never had even a Unix shell account before)
    • "Classes" and "instances", which carry messages on some particular subject (e.g. "help", or any of a number of classes each belonging to a particular student group)
    • X and tty support in the default client, and a proliferation of other clients (at least at MIT)
    • Users can hide an unhide themselves, so other users can locate them or not, and set whether an announcement is sent when they log in
    I have no idea how this compares to the feature set in AIM, ICQ, or IRC. I just know they're all out there, and AFAICT do more or less the same thing.
  • I guess it doesn't surprize me that AOL would request the removal of the logo from this IM, but what purpose does that really serve?

    Trademark law is a funny thing. If they want to maintain their trademark on this or that, they have to pursue all ``violations'' of it. If someone can show that they haven't enforced their trademark rights, they can lose the mark.

    Of course there's no reason AOL couldn't grant particular projects a royalty-free license to use their marks, if they wanted, but they would only do that if they had a good reason to.

  • I've seen a couple of posts like this...
    I'm not sure what your point is. Its like saying gtk is stupid because its yesterdays technology (athena widgets) repackaged, or. I'd much rather use an instant messaging service than talk or irc, especially talk. Not only that, whenever someone says this they are also assuming that its pointless to talk online to anyone who isnt a computer geek. I being a college student a couple of hours away from home occasionally talk to my family online, which is a whole hell of a lot cheaper than long distance rates...and they certainly dont know or care how to use something as archaic as talk, or something as involved and annoying as irc. I consider ease of use, and ease of getting other people to use it part of functionality, and programs such as AIM, ICQ, and hopefully Jabber, provide this in amounts several orders of magnitude greater than talk and irc.
    I guess all I'm saying is that I think instant messanging programs have a purpose, and whether they are to some degree of old technology doesn't matter, since they are presented in a form that is useful. Quite a bit of technology is old technology repackaged with some superficial change such as a nicer interface.
  • by Jamie Zawinski ( 775 ) <> on Tuesday July 27, 1999 @10:14AM (#1782269) Homepage
    Maybe I'm misunderstanding how Jabber works (the info on the web site is extremely sparse) but from what I can tell, it's very server-centric. If I have to use a Jabber-specific server, I'm not interested at all. I think that's a losing approach. What I still want to see [] is a single client that speaks all extant protocols, without making me, the user, get bogged down in the details.

    Sorry if I've misunderstood what Jabber is all about; but if I've gotten it wrong, you should probably try and clarify this on the web site, because it's really hard to tell what your architecture and goals are, and why.

    I also don't understand why anyone would use AIM instead of IRC, except for the reasons of ``my new computer came with AIM and not IRC'' or ``my friends all use AIM and not IRC.'' The latter of which a multi-protocol client solves nicely.

  • And after modifying their system, the company that admitted that they used the document to access the system (Yahoo!) has not tried to do so again.

    The other company has decided that they will subvert the serer owners attempted security and has hacked the server a second and a third time.

    Wouldn't you state that AOL has indicated that they do not wish to have Microsoft using their servers in this manner? Haven't they been rather clear in their desire to retain their resources for themselves?

    Wouldn't you say that Microsofts refusal to accept that it's AOLs servers and their system (unlike Yahoo!) is akin to a consistant pattern of behavior to attempt to steal services (and if they can not steal the services, to cause a degredation of the services for the rightful owners through a DoS attack)?

    Such a stink was made when SATAN was released and all it did was probe servers for vunerabilities. This is a concerted effort to obtain services that were denied by the massive release of software designed to take those services that belong to another company.

    How would Microsoft feel if every second 20,000 people on the net started issuing pings or finger request to the MSN servers?

    It's wrong! It's theft. It's a denial of service attack on their only major threat in the Internet space.

  • Is the IM's really any faster than normal email?

    Well, no, not really. But it's different. Over Zephyr (to pick an IM system completely at random), you can have a conversation between individuals, or a discussion within a group. It's kind of like the difference between talking to someone on the phone (or having a conference call) and writing them a letter (or trying to resolve something via the opinion page of your local paper).

    How much time and trouble are spent writing little messages back and forth that could actually be used in something productive?

    What? Internet? Productive? Huh? :-)

  • Microsoft isn't using the TOC protocol. They are using a reverse-engineered version of the protocol that the regular AIM clients use. Only Yahoo and Prodigy were using TOC -- not Microsoft.


    Kriston J. Rehberg []

  • Sorry, but NAIM and LAIM do not use TOC. They use the FAIM library, which is a public-domain reverse-engineered version of the AIM protocol. FAIM-based applications like these do not use TOC.

    GAIM *does* use TOC.


    Kriston J. Rehberg []

  • Has anyone written up / agreed to any sort of open protocol yet? If so, where's the RFC or other source of documentation? I'd love to create a messaging client (maybe server, too) but I'd want to make sure it would work with everyone else. Obviously this wouldn't help people connect with AOL's or M$'s proprietary messaging users, but if they keep pissing people off it shouldn't be hard to get people to switch over.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Over at [] work has been slowly but steadily going on a cross-platform, cross-protocol instant messaging system. The architecture of this client will allow communication between any combination of the native Jabber client users, AIM users, ICQ users, and more. I'm afraid by the time I myself beefed up my (at-present) meager programming skills, it would be too late or they'd be done by then, but perhaps someone will read this who can help beat Microsoft, AOL, IBM or whoever may come to try to make sure instant messaging is divided up into exlusionist camps where you need powwow, AIM, ICQ and 12 other programs running just to talk to everyone.
  • All the messaging programs at the moment suck really badly. ICQ and AIM are both pretty woeful.
    The other day somebody was mumbling about Zephyr [] , an Athena messaging system. I have no idea whether it's suitable, because I've never used it. But I've never used these consumer-based things either. Somebody might want to evaluate it.
  • Gee, attempting to choose the lesser of two evils. But, in this case, I'll have to side with AOL. America Online knows what Microsoft is capable of. First, create a messaging client. Second, add it to all new applications (for team support, of course). And, finally, integrate it into the operating system, thereby killing AIM and ICQ.

    It's Microsoft's pattern, and I'm so glad that Microsoft finally attempted to go against the only company, at this time, who has the power to fight back.
  • yeah, i know for a fact there is a registry key floating around on the hax0r boards that allows you to disable other's accept confirmation messages.
  • Question:

    Closed, proprietary protocols that are changed at a whim by a large corporation to stifle competition are

    1. Good
    2. Bad
    It seems that most of the Slahdot readers believe (2) with a passion, unless of course the target is MS, in which case (1) applies

    Does MS deserve it? Sure. Doesn't make it right though. If you truly believe (1), and I would argue any Open Source believer would, then what AOL is doing is simply wrong.


  • Zephyr is shockingly powerful and flexible, but it is a nightmare just to install and get running. I think it would have to have a _huge_ number of changes to be an acceptable alternative to either ICQ or AIM.

  • It's Microsoft's pattern, and I'm so glad that Microsoft finally attempted to go against the only company, at this time, who has the power to fight back.

    I'm only happy if this sort of war allows a proper solution to sneak up on them, which I doubt.

    Microsoft's pattern is just as reprehensable when AOL is using it. It's not the company, it's the tactics of screwing the user for profit.

  • Exactly. Our business focuses on stock traders. Well, some of them were using AIM to send messages across the offices. These are trades, travelling totally insecure, and unauthenticated to AOL and back.

    That's actually why we developed our own messaging and data system (ez-eXchange). It is focussed for our the financial market, but it is completely secure and authenticated. []

    Kevin Osborn
    Software Engineer
    Eze Castle Consulting, Inc. []
  • In other news, AOL is in court to win the right to use AT&T's cable networks.

    The stories aren't completely analogous, but I think AOL is playing both sides of the closed access argument. With AT&T, they are demanding the right to use a network that was built completely with AT&T money. They are willing to pay, but not too much. In this recent battle, they are closing their "network". For this network, AOL has written the software, distributed it, but has not built the bulk of the physical network that it runs on.

    While I don't agree with MS for just hijacking a protocol that wasn't open and using AOL servers without permission, I also don't agree with AOL's reaction. If theft is what MS is guilty of, then AOL should be suing/pressing charges and asking for a cease and desist order to keep MS from further distribution until the court decides. This reaction just weakens AOL's position in the AT&T case.

  • I used to work at the Lotus/IBM office that
    is responsible for Sametime. For fairness sake,
    I just wanted to point out that the AIM/MSN
    Messenger functionality is a very small subset
    of Sametime. I'd try to explain everything
    that Sametime does, but I suppose Lotus's
    own literature would give you a better idea
    than any attempt I could make. FYI.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire