download your crappy free aim client here
February 15, 2002 6:27 AM   Subscribe

download your crappy free aim client here Yup, this morning got bounced from trillian using AOL Instant Messenger again.
This time, got an interesting message from AOL. The AIM client opened itself with this message:

AOL Instant Messenger: You have been disconnected from the AOL Instant Message Service (SM) for accessing the AOL network using unauthorized software. You can download a FREE, fully featured, and authorized client, here .

So, fellow Mefi readers, how long can AOL block Trillian? Shouldn't they be coming up with more innovative campaigns, or is this a sign that the IM market is about to become a lot more competitive? Tawk amongst yourselves.
posted by purplecow (56 comments total)
I got this message over a year ago using Odigo. It's nothing new.
posted by revbrian at 6:33 AM on February 15, 2002

Well I'm pissed. I'm sorry but "full featured" ? That's a load of crap. If I wanted an insecure program that doesn't let me easily log chats and lacks other useful features then I'd be happy to use any client AOL provides.

AOL bought Netscape - one of the companies in a huge fight with MS over anti-competitive practices. Yet I don't see MSN kicking off Trillian users. Or Yahoo for that matter.

So why is AOL being so hypocritical? Isn't there someone working on an anti-trust case against AOL? Well, sign me up.
posted by bkdelong at 6:50 AM on February 15, 2002

I just hope Trillian keep making fixes, because Trillian is a far superior client to AIM. There are two reasons I use Trillian and not AIM, 1) because Trillian has no ads, has skins and is a lot prettier than the disgusting AIM interface, and 2) not everyone uses AIM. I'm not originally from America, and I don't think I should have to use two clients to keep in touch. It makes sense to have a program that connects to both.

I'm not much looking forward to having to use AIM again.
posted by animoller at 6:50 AM on February 15, 2002

yeah, bkdelong, one of those rare instances where microsoft is with the good guys. wasn't a big part of FCC approval of aol-time-warner merger that aol help push IM interoperability?

bullcrap. just like what "The Instant Messaging Unified Coalition, whose members include Microsoft," said over a year ago:

"It doesn't appear that the instant messaging provisions go far enough. They will allow the status quo from AOL to continue, and consumers will not have free-flowing and open communications over instant messaging. The IM Unified Coalition will now face the prospect of a world in which AOL will likely never embrace interoperability to the benefit of consumers."
posted by danOstuporStar at 6:58 AM on February 15, 2002

adium still works, wheee
posted by sawks at 6:59 AM on February 15, 2002

Funny I have not been bounced yet I have been online since 6 am eastern time. It may be AOL's network but as long as this is not a serious security risk aol should not be blocking members just because they want to serve ads. I should not have to use 3 or 4 different IM clients because AOL refuse to open their network.
posted by neo452 at 7:06 AM on February 15, 2002

the features present in adium, along with the tempting screenshots, make me want to download it right away. alas, i am forced to use windows (NT/2000) at work. is anyone aware of a similar third party aim client for windows? the smaller the better, the less cpu usage the better. i want to support third party clients. thanks.
posted by complex at 7:13 AM on February 15, 2002

I hate to rain on everyone's parade, but, although it may be a GOOD idea for AOL to open their network, they don't HAVE to. Why shouldn't AOL block all clients that don't serve there ads? They are a company providing you a service. Traditionally, you have to pay for services that you recieve. That means that, as long as they don't want to play, you do have to use at least 2 clients.

But think -- 2 is a lot better than the 4 or 5 you used to have to run if you wanted access to all the networks. And maybe, one day, AIM will be supplanted by Jabber or something else even more exciting and interesting like the p2p instant messaging system my friend just built -- from which clients cannot possibly be blocked due to features built into the protocol.
posted by benbrown at 7:14 AM on February 15, 2002

Actually benbrown it's a monopolies/ anti-trust issue just like any other. When a company controls a market so tightly, when it owns so much of a market, it's unhealthy for business in general and it's bad for customers; imagine if the telephone or e-mail wasn't interoperable. AOL should be forced to license their protocols to companies like Trillian, who could then pay for legitimate access.
posted by skylar at 7:17 AM on February 15, 2002

If it's a question of just licensing protocols, I'd be more than happy to pay an annual subscription (as long as it's reasonably priced) for One Chat Client That Does Everything. Trillian, AOL, MS, you guys paying attention?
posted by alumshubby at 7:21 AM on February 15, 2002

"So why is AOL being so hypocritical?"

"1) because Trillian has no ads, "

there's your answer fishbulb!
posted by jcterminal at 7:21 AM on February 15, 2002

I think it was some thread here at MeFi that pointed to Vista, but I haven't tried it. Looks interesting, though.
posted by misterioso at 7:21 AM on February 15, 2002

Anti-trust: if AOL were to prevent anyone else from developing/running an IM network.

Good Business Sense: AOL not allowing people to use other IM clients to reach their network. What benbrown said about ads.

By the way, the security vulnerability was resolved.
posted by jennak at 7:22 AM on February 15, 2002

So why do you keep using their network?

Mirabilis got bought up by AOL, too, and their website is still one of the worst, but at least accessing the ICQ network still works with Miranda, which in my opinion has an interface vastly superior (as in: less cluttered) to Trillian.
posted by c3o at 7:31 AM on February 15, 2002

Actually, Skylar, arguing that this is a monopoly situation is ridiculous, precisely because there are so many other non-AIM networks available. AOL can keep their protocol proprietary if they want to; there's no reason on earth why they should be forced to licence it to anyone. The whole reason they created their network was so they could make money selling ads on it -- if you don't like the ads, nobody's forcing you to use their network.

I think Trillian et al are actually the ones in the precarious legal situation, since they're basically piggybacking on somebody else's work -- it's similar in my mind to the lawsuits a few years ago about 'framing' other websites. (Some cunning entrepreneurs started setting up websites that allowed users to access other sites' content, while bypassing those other sites' ads, which was pretty obviously illegal -- see the analogy?)

Sure it'd be more convenient for you guys if all these networks were interoperable -- and arguably it'd be better for AOL as well, since they'd be both further entrenching their protocol and avoiding bad PR -- but I don't think that adds up to something that requires government intervention.

[on preview: what jennak said.]
posted by ook at 7:38 AM on February 15, 2002

benbrown: Why shouldn't AOL block all clients that don't serve there ads? They are a company providing you a service.

People who make this argument are generally people who haven't been online very long. AOL owes its very existence to the fact that they pushed their commercial crap through everyone else's servers back in their early days. The fact that they parlayed this initial exploitation of everyone else's altruism into later control of key backbones does not change the fact that they profited mightily from other people's time and equipment without recipricating. For them to wail "It's my sever!" rings a tad hollow.
posted by RavinDave at 7:46 AM on February 15, 2002

I just signed into Trillian. No problem.
posted by eyeballkid at 7:46 AM on February 15, 2002

scratch that. It seems that it boots you off after about three minutes.
posted by eyeballkid at 7:54 AM on February 15, 2002

Skylar.. benbrown is right. AOL may control the market for AOL instant messanger, but there is nothing preventing their users from using any other IM client.

And there are many other clients available to use. It's like saying that AOL control access to the internet because they have the largest subscriber base. Now, this is quite different than the whole microsoft monopoly situation, which I don't want to get into, but suffice to say, AOL doesn't hold a monopoly position in IMing.

And RavinDave - benbrown not online very long? Whoo wee! that's a funny. But, regardless of their (AOL's) origins (where everyone was piggybacking on everyone else's altruism), AOL has the right to expect to paid for the development (however little) it has put into the IM program, servers, services and whatever else.

To remain a viable business, they do need to receive some sort of revenue stream. If anythign has been shown over the past few years of busts, you can't offer something totally for free on the net and survive long-term.
posted by rich at 7:55 AM on February 15, 2002

Why shouldn't AOL block all clients that don't serve their ads?

I'm an exception, I guess. I've been online since BITNET. I remember when things were free, because programmers just coded to code. Now, they have kids and a desire to eat, so they want to get paid. Not a big deal.

AOL pushed crap, CompuServe pushed crap (mainly their UI, in my opinion), and there was no good standard way to use the data that was floating on ArpaNet.

Now, standards have emerged. The graduates of Pembrook College, Cambridge, can be researched with a few clicks. You can learn about LL1 Parsers, and ponygirls, with the same interface. But, someone worked hard to make that possible.

Why not pay them? Look at the ad, even if you never click on it.
posted by dwivian at 7:56 AM on February 15, 2002

Another means of action for Trillian - go donate either through PayPal or Amazon.
posted by bkdelong at 7:56 AM on February 15, 2002

People who make this argument are generally people who haven't been online very long

Well that was a cheap, and rather misguided, shot, wasn't it? Good heavens, I can't believe I'm actually defending AOL, but:

AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe, and a few others like them grew up as proprietary networks, separate from the "real" internet, back when the real thing was difficult to use and of interest mostly to science geeks. When the real thing started getting easier to use -- basically when the WWW started replacing gopher and ftp as the primary form of communication -- AOL made the smart business decision to allow their users to connect to the "real" internet, through the then-still-easier-to-use AOL service. Which is not 'exploiting other people's altruism;' they were just offering their customers a gateway to the web through their own service. AOL users could get to the web, non-AOL users could poke fun at those goofy AOL users, everybody's happy.

As time goes on, the line between AOL and the 'real' internet has gotten less one-way, to the point where -- shock -- AOL now actually provides a service that non-AOL users would like to use too. And they're happy to let you, provided you agree to look at their ads -- because they own the system: they built it, they wrote their own protocol and client, and they sell it to their users based on ad revenue. And if you don't want to look at their ads, you're free to use one of the many other, free, non-ad-supported systems that AOL doesn't own.
posted by ook at 8:12 AM on February 15, 2002

easy answer, have trillian show aol's banners? are there big banners now? I haven't used it for a long time, since the first small banners were implemented.
posted by tomplus2 at 8:19 AM on February 15, 2002

So, why do people still use AIM? If so many have Trillian already, then they have access to other IM services that as far as I know, work just fine. Abandon AIM if you don't like AOL's practices already.
posted by Hackworth at 8:41 AM on February 15, 2002

Ben Brown is the finest man what ever breathed air.
posted by thirteen at 8:52 AM on February 15, 2002

AOL made the smart business decision to allow their users to connect to the "real" internet, through the then-still-easier-to-use AOL service. Which is not 'exploiting other people's altruism;'

Yes. It is.

They were not mirroring all that data on local AOL servers. They were routing members through severs that belonged to other people. They were taking up bandwidth that belonged to other people. They were shuttling their email through networks belonging to other people. They were storing their UseNet messages on drives that belonged to other people. What's wrong with that? That's the grand idea of InterNet, right? How is that different than my university? Well, my university gave back -- they developed "Archie" and hosted a key node (as one of several examples). What did AOL do? Bupkiss. They leeched off the resources of other people for commercial gain.

This (by itself) doesn't mean should or shouldn't open AIM -- it does mean that I don't wanna hear "it's their server" used as a justification. When they pay back what they owe to countless universities and institutions for propping their sorry ass up in the early days, I'll take it seriously. In the interim, they could score alot of good will and erase alot of ingrained loathing against them by working with the net community to provide a workable compromise that allows everyone to benefit. It won't happen, of course.
posted by RavinDave at 8:57 AM on February 15, 2002

13 is clearly deluded, as I know for a fact that BenBrown breathes a complex mixture of methane and paint fumes. I know because he told me on AIM just before I got booted off.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 9:03 AM on February 15, 2002

I'm a trillian user, and (until this morning) was signed into AIM using it. I have no problem with AOL's actions, because I understand that it's THEIR service and THEY set the terms.

<possibly incorrect facts=What does suck though is that they were forced by the fcc to open their protocol, but they did it in a half-assed way. the open api doesn't support anywhere near the feature set anyone using aim expects. />

I'd like to see this resolved by AOL saying trillian can keep doing it's thing as long as they start serving AOL's ads.

My opinion may be biased by the fact that I only use AIM slightly more than Yahoo Messenger - MSN Messenger is my IM medium of choice. So I hope MS doesn't block trillian any time soon =*)

One thing though. Why do they block trillian from AIM and not ICQ?
posted by SiW at 9:06 AM on February 15, 2002

AOL has every right to block these Trillian. AIM works on two protocols, there is the protocol that AOL has opened up to allow basic instant messaging and there is the proprietary protocol that AOL uses with it's client that adds all the extra features.

Trillian has reverse engineered the other protocol, and has gotten most of the features working. AOL can change their protocol however they please, Trillian has to keep up. that's the price of reverse engineering. In addition, AOL can tell people, "We don't want you to connect to our servers and use our bandwidth at a cost to us for a client that generates us zero revenue."

It's not very nice, but it's business. They can refuse the right to allow anyone ot connect to their servers period. It's their servers.

I like Trillian, though. I've given them money, and I hope they can work something out. I'd go as far to say that i'd pay a nominal monthly fee to use Trillian over AOL. Perhaps license network usage to trillian for $1/month. they probably don't make that much off their little ads.
posted by AaRdVarK at 9:09 AM on February 15, 2002

I use Fire, and I'm on successfully today. I am willing to look at ads and I am willing to even (gasp!) click on some from time to time, **if I have the same functionality.** As of now, this is not the case for Mac users (not to hijack the thread or anything, truly) and probably never will be. AIM is not the only IM system that thinks I should "take it and like it" either: ICQ is at 2.0 for MacOS 8-9, 3.0 for OS X, and the current windows version is at FIVE point one. Yeah.

Secretly I'm hoping that Jabber takes off. But that's just me...
posted by verso at 9:10 AM on February 15, 2002

So, why do people still use AIM? If so many have Trillian already, then they have access to other IM services that as far as I know, work just fine. Abandon AIM if you don't like AOL's practices already.

That is exactly the solution. And proselytize to your laggard friends who remain exclusively on the AIM network to (a) use Trillian and (b) switch off the AIM network to one of the others supported.
posted by rushmc at 9:13 AM on February 15, 2002

Here's the FCC ruling during the AOL/TW merger. I am not a lawyer, but as far as I can tell, AOL has to open up their IM protocol should they choose to integrate video into their IM client/services.

Can anyone else figure this out?
posted by bkdelong at 9:21 AM on February 15, 2002

RavinDave -- if contributing to the internet community were a prerequisite for using the internet, I'd agree with you... but everybody on the net, by definition, is shuttling their data through other peoples' computers, and only a relatively tiny percentage contribute open-source code or host backbones or whatnot. (Besides -- I'm not certain of this, but doesn't AOL host a lot of backbone for the regular old internet, these days?)

It's a nice ideal, and would arguably be better in the long term, if everybody who benefited from the net were required to contribute in some substantial way to its growth -- but it's just an ideal, not reality. There's no rational way to quantify it, anyway.

As someone who writes code for a living, I have to support the idea that people who write software have the right to make money from its use... even if those people do happen to be AOL. I'm not knocking open-source software, but it's not the only kind of software that exists. This is maybe hairsplitting, but I'm not arguing 'it's their server' -- I'm arguing that 'it's their software'. They wrote it, they can try to make money from it. And if you don't like the way their software works, use somebody else's or write your own. That simple.
posted by ook at 9:27 AM on February 15, 2002

There's no rational way to quantify it, anyway. (to clarify: I mean there's no clear way to judge whether what someone is adding to the net is 'worthy' compared to what they take away from it.)
posted by ook at 9:30 AM on February 15, 2002

According to this article, AOL did open up their AIM protocol. I wonder what changed?
posted by bkdelong at 9:31 AM on February 15, 2002

I had been using ICQ for quite a long time. When the Ads apeared, I stoped using the client and started accesing the network with NetTools, a small client developed by a swiss guy. Now, the IM is mature enough and it's time to find a good free p2p protocol to handle the task. It's a shame IMUnified didn't work out.
posted by Soveran at 9:42 AM on February 15, 2002

I am suprised to say it, but I agree with rushmc ;)

I see a lot of whining about how unfair it is for AOL to block these other services. What I don't see are people doing something about it. Don't blame AOL if your friends won't switch to MSN, Yahoo or some other service that isn't blocking Trillian. Switch. If they miss you they will switch too.
posted by terrapin at 9:42 AM on February 15, 2002

According to this article, AOL did open up their AIM protocol. I wonder what changed?

Right, the AOL TOC protocol (which Fire, among others, uses) is open and continues to function. Triallian, among others, has apparently reverse-engineered AOL's proprietary and more-featureful Oscar protocol. Unauthorized use of Oscar seems to be the root of the AOL's beef.
posted by sad_otter at 9:48 AM on February 15, 2002

It annoys me how it's only AIM blocking Trillian, and only Trillian being blocked by AIM. If AIM attempted to redesign their hideous interface, I would consider using it. Also, I think I would also consider paying a fee to Trillian if such a deal was struck with AIM. However, if they did start charging, everyone would just start using some other program that is free. My only option now is to get everyone on my contact list using ICQ so we can all use Trillian, but the likelihood of that is pretty low.

Also, benbrown has been on the Internet before I even knew what the Internet was. He's totally oldskool.
posted by animoller at 9:58 AM on February 15, 2002

skallas said: The magic of trillian is that it can use other IM protocols. Cancel your AOL account and never have to deal with this again.

It's magic until the other IM providers follow suit.
posted by srboisvert at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2002

SiW - that would mean AOL-TW doing *something* with yet another product they've bought up.
posted by Nauip at 11:19 AM on February 15, 2002

if push comes to shove, try this: DeadAIM. just run the deadaim.exe instead of aim.exe and the ads are gone.
posted by mcsweetie at 11:53 AM on February 15, 2002

Only a couple of people have hinted at the real issue so far: closed IM services have monopoly-like control because if you wanted to switch services, the people you chat with would also have to switch services. That's a real barrier to adoption of a different service. I tried like crazy to convince my friends to switch away from ICQ, and none of them would, each with a different reason. My only reason for not switching away is that my friends don't switch. "My friends are on closed IM platform X" is that platform's most desirable feature.

Now that lots of people are on lots of networks for lots of different reasons, I'm hoping that cross-compatability becomes enough of a desired feature in the IM market for Trillian-blocking to be considered a misfeature of AIM. That makes this something of an awareness issue...
posted by dan_of_brainlog at 12:22 PM on February 15, 2002

If you want to stay compatible with AIM but hate ads, just download one of the many patches to make it ad-free. I've seen hacks for Windows (see mcsweetie's post above,) Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X..

On Mac OS X, yes, Adium still works... great, but it's an AIM alternative only. It has an elgant interface and robust features, but won't work with Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, IRC, etc.

For multi-protocol interoperability, check out Fire or Proteus. Both are very nicely done.
posted by Fofer at 12:51 PM on February 15, 2002

This whole argument is silly. Before the Kingsbury Commitment—about ten years before AT&T was granted monopoly rights—people mostly used AT&T phone lines for long distance calls and a local phone line for local calls. People had two phones and two phone lines. It was AT&T’s perogative to block local carriers from their network for whatever reason.

That’s how it was, and as we all now, whatever companies want to do is what we should be stuck with.
posted by raaka at 1:18 PM on February 15, 2002

The AT&T comparison doesn't work here, because the pipe into our homes/offices is already there. If AOL wants to gin up some sort of communications protocol using its own connectivity that it pays for, it has every right to keep interlopers off its own servers, just like I have the right to keep you from using my hard disk space to store some of your web site's graphics. You can't grab any of my free space just because I happen to have some connected to the net via a cable modem.
posted by aaron at 2:07 PM on February 15, 2002

“the pipe into our homes/offices is already there. ”

What do you mean by already there? God made the trees, the fish and the data networks?

Look, I build a network and can keep whomever I want off of it. AT&T built a network, local carriers built networks, then AT&T bought local carriers. Which means AT&T owns the network, and they can keep whomever they want off of it or allow anyone they want on to it. It doesn’t matter if some home or office you moved into has an AT&T phone line in it—you can own the house but the phone line is AT&T’s. If you built the house then you didn’t have to let AT&T’s line into it. Once they built the line it’s theirs.

AOL built a communication protocol routed through servers. It owns both. If you don’t like AOL you don’t have to use its protocol (which in turn uses its servers).

It might be better if people could communicate to one another using a variety of companies and a variety of networks, but hey, the genius of private property allows individuals do what they want with it.
posted by raaka at 2:56 PM on February 15, 2002

How does such a denial of service relate to that bot service that was the subject of a post a few months ago; you knowm where you ask the thing questions and it gets you the info? Is that service still around?
posted by ParisParamus at 3:04 PM on February 15, 2002

> Unauthorized use of Oscar seems to be the root of the
> AOL's beef.

Did somebody blow the WeinerWhistle?
posted by jfuller at 3:44 PM on February 15, 2002

How would AOL even know which clients were using a reverse-engineered Oscar? It seems clear that the solution to the problem lies with Trillian and not with AOL. AOL has a right to do it, but Trillian can find a way around it. Is it just a question of spoofing something like a "UserAgent" or does AOL AIM use some kind of special passkey to be verified? Since other clients that have reverse engineered Oscar haven't been booted (yet), there is something that distinguishes Trillian from other clients. I worked on AIMM for Macintosh, so I know quite a bit about the TOC protocol but hardly nothing about Oscar. There aren't many differences AFAIK. Is authentication one of them?
posted by bloggboy at 4:42 PM on February 15, 2002

Trillian is the only client in widespread use that uses Oscar, so it is the main one getting the boot. Fire, Proteus, Vista, Adium, et al all use TOC. They don't support file transfer, voice chat, and other Oscar-only features. No big whoop, IMHO.

I'm assuming there are undocumented features in Oscar that the official AIM client supports but that clients that have reverse-engineered the protocol do not, since these features are not used in the normal course of using the client.
posted by kindall at 4:49 PM on February 15, 2002

I desperately wonder what "Oscar" the AIM protocol is named after. Is it too much to hope that it is named after the Soviet SSGN? Or is it named after a certain Grouch (no, not AOL) ?
posted by Ptrin at 9:30 PM on February 15, 2002

I think it's named after the guy who created it. *Yawn*
posted by bloggboy at 9:55 PM on February 15, 2002

I was thinking the little yellow guy who serves as the AIM mascot must be named Oscar. I have this mental image of a whole crowd of those yellow dudes fleeing a gigantic, looming AOL logo. It'd make a great Flash movie.
posted by kindall at 1:19 AM on February 16, 2002

Has anyone tried AimExpress, the online version of AIM? It takes a while to load, but seems to do the trick if you use it alongside Trillian...
posted by wibbler at 7:09 AM on February 16, 2002

tried that and got booted after 3 minutes. Waiting for a fix...
posted by purplecow at 5:08 PM on February 16, 2002

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