April 1, 2001
10:13 AM   Subscribe

If you're into such things, how to remove the advertisements from ICQ and AIM.
posted by Steven Den Beste (31 comments total)
Or you could just run Jabber, which has no ads, and interfaces with both AIM and ICQ.
posted by captaincursor at 11:19 AM on April 1, 2001

I was just about to say the same thing. Jabber, an open-source instant messaging protocol, has gateways to most of the popular IM services and has a commercial client that's pretty good and a bunch of non-commercial clients for different platforms. There was an AIM gateway functioning until last week, when AOL made changes to intentionally break it.
posted by rcade at 11:23 AM on April 1, 2001

...Or, you could invest in Norton Anti-Virus' Internet Security program, which does all sorts of neat things including blocking ads. Love it.
posted by arielmeadow at 11:27 AM on April 1, 2001

Gotta love AOL... almost as bad as M$.

I really don't like anything made by Norton - It tends to interfere with other software that I'm running, and it causes my computer to crash/break more often.
posted by SpecialK at 11:41 AM on April 1, 2001

Another thing to do would be to edit your hosts file (for Windows users at least) to restrict any ad server addresses. Surfing the web without ads is pretty surreal!
posted by gen at 12:03 PM on April 1, 2001

There is a big site launching next week that is specifically oriented around different methods of removing advertisements from website and programs and in tracking related privacy concerns. I will post a link to the front page when it launches.
posted by matthew at 12:09 PM on April 1, 2001

How does one edit their hosts file?
posted by swank6 at 12:20 PM on April 1, 2001

Here's an explanation (curtesy of sonofsamiam).
posted by DaShiv at 12:33 PM on April 1, 2001

In an ideal world, Jabber would be the perfect solution. Unfortunately, Jabber refuses to connect to any server for myself and for any number of other people. So much for that idea.
posted by Danelope at 2:09 PM on April 1, 2001

Though I admit the first thing I did when icq launched ads was switch over to jabber, I wonder how we expect these instant messaging companies to pay for all the infrastructure and client development? Would you pay a service fee for using ICQ?

Personally I think that instant messaging should be at the level of email, with common gateways that are maintained by whatever ISP you are using, and you can use whatever client you want on the system. Though I guess that's what jabber is all about.
posted by captaincursor at 2:11 PM on April 1, 2001

Mac users can also set up hosts files, although you must use the standard UNIX syntax (ads.blah.com. A instead of the backwards format Windows wants ( ads.blah.com). It is pretty easy to set up a search/replace operation in BBEdit to convert the Windows-style host list to the Unix format.
posted by kindall at 3:10 PM on April 1, 2001

The AIM hack is only half the story. After you edit the ads out, you have to run this to remove the extra space.
posted by mathowie at 4:00 PM on April 1, 2001

Thank god I'm still using an older version of ICQ that is less bloated and doesn't display ads in the first place.
posted by mkn at 4:00 PM on April 1, 2001

I'm with mkn. I'm sticking with my version 99a!
posted by lia at 4:05 PM on April 1, 2001

Nullsoft's AIMazing will replace those ads with an oscilloscope if you use Winamp. Most third party programs that interface with AIM use a different protocol (TOC) which was intended for Java-based clients. You don't get as much functionality. There are, however, some pretty neat programs that use TOC instead of the AIM's proprietary Oscar protocol. Portalsa2z.com has a pretty neat client in the works that they basically copied line-for-line from the Everybuddy client for Linux (MSNM, ICQ, AIM, Yahoo). Another neat one I just saw yesterday is called Maxxchat
posted by samsara at 4:30 PM on April 1, 2001

Alternatively, downgrade to a non-bloat, non-adware ICQ. 99b seems to be a good compromise choice. (Yes, you have to sacrifice your ICQ2000 database, but I feel cleansed for doing so.)
posted by holgate at 7:15 PM on April 1, 2001

  1. Company spends much money in R&D on a product
  2. Company decides to let users use program for free by way of non-intrusive advertisements
  3. People feel that they're entitled to free software on their terms, and hack the software so that the ads no longer appear
  4. Said company can no longer afford R&D and as such, go out of business
  5. Free product is no longer available.
What am I missing here? How do you justify this thread as being ethical?
posted by milnak at 12:32 AM on April 2, 2001

AIM and ICQ are owned by AOL, the most evil and sinister company to ever exist on this planet...and they make plenty of money elsewhere too ;-)

Joking aside, Its not that the advertisement brings them money to fund their projects, but its the fact that they can reach so many users. With the user base that AIM and ICQ currently hold, it just screams target marketing. I personally don't mind the ads, just happy that the clients are not based on modal VB forms like most of AOL
posted by samsara at 5:03 AM on April 2, 2001

I agree with milnak. You don't pay for it so you shouldn't complain about it. If they want/need to recoup some capital by having some cheesy ads then so be it. Nothing says you have to look at them, I never do. Too focused on either reading an incoming message, or typing one up to send out.
posted by a3matrix at 5:18 AM on April 2, 2001

Whether or not we look at them, ads give others the ability to track us across the internet. Doubleclick et al have made this "added benefit" a big "value proposition" (in the words of a Marketing person). Who's getting the value, I'm not so sure, but either way, combine surfing with a persistent database and some sort of personally identifying information and suddenly you have no privacy.

I did the host file hack a while ago, and believe me, it's way cool...
posted by fooljay at 1:16 PM on April 2, 2001

Without getting into an ethical debate (mine are certainly not all they should be) isn't this akin to removing banner ads and pop-ups from free hosting providers?

ICQ is a free service, developed at no cost to us and used by tens of thousands. If they want to recoup some costs and use the product to make a buck or two, what is the harm? It is not as though we're forced to use it, as others have pointed out there are several other IM programs available.

It's simple. Don't like the ads, don't use it.
posted by cedar at 1:37 PM on April 2, 2001

Milnak, I watch TV. My TV has a "mute" control. When the ads come on, I mute the TV and do something else until the programming comes back on. (I watch TV while working with my computer.)

The fact that someone else is running advertising doesn't translate into an obligation by me to look at the advertising. They have their problems, I have my problems. There's no ethics involved, as far as I'm concerned. I am not under any obligation to make their business plan succeed.

To take your argument further, what good is advertising if I read it but decide not to purchase the product it describes? Advertisers don't want eyeballs, what they want is dollars. If I read advertising do I have an obligation to purchase? Of course not. But if I know I'm not going to buy anyway (and I do), then why do I have an obligation to read the advertising? It wastes my time and does the advertiser no good at all.

All of this is academic; I don't use either ICQ or AIM.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:24 PM on April 2, 2001

After I wrote the previous comment, I started thinking about my attitude towards this and realized that my position is actually stronger than I said. So I wrote it up.

But to summarize: if enough people modify ICQ and similar programs to make it so they don't retrieve or display advertising, and if this makes ICQ go under, then I think it is a good thing. If enough people use ad-blockers when retrieving web sites which are supported by ads so that the advertising model there collapses, then I think that is also a good thing.

I want internet advertising as a commercial model to fail, everywhere it is used.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:59 PM on April 2, 2001

Steven's write up is approaching brilliance, go read it and go read it now.

The most important point he makes is that, as a person paying for access to the Internet, you (yes, you, the person reading this) are paying to get this advertising sent to you.

In one of our discussions about ad-blocking a week or two ago I mentally wandered into wondering how much bandwidth on a given day is taken up by banner ads, and I didn't even think about the fact that I'm paying for that data to get to me.

That thought makes me angry.

Bandwidth's the bottleneck right now. RAM is cheap, physical storage is cheap, processing power is cheap, bandwidth is not cheap. I pay ~$42 (CDN) per month for my Internet access (@home, with the modem rental free because I'm also a cable subscriber with my provider).

Most dial-up access in Canada is $19.99/mo. for unlimited 56k, but there's been a lot of talk about that having to change. As more bandwidth is being consumed, providers need to get bigger pipes to the backbone, but how much of the used bandwidth is taken up by advertising?

Thinking about it, I've realised that, like Steven, I won't be sad to see advertising support sites go. If funding is necessary for the content I want, I'd rather pay for it outright.
posted by cCranium at 5:26 AM on April 3, 2001

I'd rather pay for quality sites as well, but I also realize that a lot of the sites out there, that are somewhat beneficial, use advertisement funding....to the effect of, "If you like what you see, please take the time to visit my sponsor." I agree with both cC and Steve, that we are outgrowing this, mostly due to the downsizing of dot-com revenues. At its current rate, this model will fail.

I don't however, buy into the idea that advertisement is funding infrastructures to ICQ or AIM. As I stated before, AOL is a cash whore, and uses any revenue it can get to buyout other technologies. If you're still paying for AOL services, try a local provider for a month or two....you won't miss the modal forms :)
posted by samsara at 8:07 AM on April 3, 2001

I'm not sure if this is the proper place to discuss this, but Steven's arguments are flawed.

I want all sites and all companies who are trying to fund their web sites and their programs with advertising to die or seek other means of doing it. I want there to be somewhere, anywhere, where I can go without being inundated with commercials. I am willing to accept that this will cause a shrinkage of the material available to me on the web. I accept that price and am willing to pay it.

Out of curiosity, which pay sites do you currently subscribe to? The Wall Street Journal? Consumer Reports? Or is this a hypothetical example, essentially stating that when free web sites are no longer available you'll pay if you must.

Soon they're going to wake up to the fact that they have to make their advertising something that we want to see, or it will fail

Apparently the argument here is "as long as the advertising is entertaining, I have no problem watching it." Yeah, right. In fact, Steven goes on to contradict himself in the same paragraph:

I've had people tell me that they watch it precisely because they want to see the ads. I don't, but it's nice to hear that it's getting better

Advertising actually has the potential to succeed on the web. But the right model for them is to actually create their own web sites, and to mix their product information with other information which people want to see

A web site isn't an advertisement. It's a catalog, and a "pull model" at best. By your statement, Sears should stop doing TV and radio ads and should only have print (and web) catalogs available when customers request one. What type of mindshare would Sears have if they adopted this model?
posted by milnak at 10:35 AM on April 3, 2001

I have a membership here.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 12:22 PM on April 3, 2001

Another IM client that talks to 'the big 4' is Imici at imici.com. Doesn't seem to do anything fancy, but messaging is all I want anyway, I've got the other clients in case I want to do something fancy.
posted by mutagen at 1:35 PM on April 3, 2001

What am I missing here?

How about, um, the $287m exit strategy?

1.5 Company make the most of free product's popularity, becoming millionaires in the process.

Oh, and compare and contrast ICQ and Winamp. Both Mirabilis and Nullsoft sold out to AOL, but one has still managed to remain in touch with its users. Since taking the AOL shilling, ICQ has gradually sacrificed usability for bloat. And why not? They're not going to run out of cash in the near future.
posted by holgate at 2:37 PM on April 3, 2001

Since taking the AOL shilling, ICQ has gradually sacrificed usability for bloat. And why not?

Let's not forget what happened to Netscape too...hell, just put the words "AOL" and "buys" in Google for the full effect.
posted by samsara at 12:30 AM on April 4, 2001

milnak: Apparently the argument here is "as long as the advertising is entertaining, I have no problem watching it."

Well, yeah. There's a reason a site like Ad Critic works, there's a reason the Clio awards are a good show. There's a whole lot of entertaining advertising out there.

If an advertisement provides me with entertainment, then I'm willing to listen to what they say, and possibly consider their product. That's what advertising's about. If an advertisement's "Your internet connection is slow. CLICK HERE!!!" there's absolutely no entertainment value, and therefore it's a bad advertisement.

I don't understand how Steven's contradicting himself. He says advertising needs to be entertaining to be effective, and then he uses anecdotal evidence of people who are entertained by advertising. People who look forward to an advertisement for it's entertainment value. That's effective advertising.

It's quite possible that I'm overlooking the contradiction. Could you explain?

Also, I don't think Nullsoft "sold out" to AOL in the typical "sell out" sense. They got AOL to fund their wacky adventures and they're staying reasonably true to their pre-AOL form. Nullsoft, in my opinion, won.
posted by cCranium at 6:04 AM on April 4, 2001

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