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AOL IM Rival Pulls The Plug

Hemos posted more than 13 years ago | from the there-can-onlby-be-one dept.

America Online 137

A reader writes: " has an interesting story about TribalVoice who was probably the only real threat to AOL in the instant messenger field, since AOL's acquisition of ICQ. David fought Goliath and lost. Now the only one left fighting AOL over IM, is Microsoft. How ironic." There's actually more then just Pow Wow left - Jabber comes to mind, but the field has definitely narrowed over the last few years.

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Re:Tribal Voice a THREAT? Hah! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#496607)

TribalVoice was a cheap, third-rate product snapped up at a fire-sale price from yet another owner that couldn't make it fly.

And abusive of net resources to boot.

I do on-demand dialup so I can process mail automatically. Normally, this means a 5 minute call when my system demands a connection and then it times out when the mail is done.

I came home one night to find my connection still up, more than 8 hours since the last scheduled mail transfer. Short version of story: some moron had registered a dialup IP address as their PowWow address, and their buddy's PowWow client had been trying to connect to his buddy's system every 20 seconds for the whole 8 hours. And this nonsense kept happening for several weeks.

Tribal couldn't understand why this might be a problem and they would do nothing to help find either the misregistered flubby or his buddy, nor would they provide enough protocol data so I could write a "shut the fuck up and go away" demon.

Of course, WebRamp is not blameless in this -- their marvelous product counted incoming PowWow packets as valid data even when all it did was throw them away as undeliverable. WebRamp couldn't understand why this was a problem, "just shut the modem off when you are done", they told me.

Even webservers that are trying to keep the previous caller's connection alive eventually back off and let the connection time out, but PowWow was never that smart. They'd have been filtered at the network routers were they my routers.

Re:Something I don't get.. (2)

Masem (1171) | more than 13 years ago | (#496608)

My understanding was that AOL was blocking non-AIM clients from using the server (that is, there's an undocumented call that the official AIM client sends before initiating the connection). And, Microsoft actually tried to bypass this call, and AOL reprogrammed their servers to block the MS client from connecting. But AOL does let other clients connect, so it's probably who they want to keep as friends, and who they want to make as enemies at this point.

Why IM is 'better' than IRC (4)

Masem (1171) | more than 13 years ago | (#496609)

I'm not trying to defend one over another, but offering some valid reasons why people are flocking to IM rather than IRC.

  • Approach Issues - the concept of chat rooms may be simple, but to *get* to a chat room you need to have software, the name of a server, and the name of the room. IRC software, particularly on the PC, is notorously bad and not intuitive, so even if the user managed to get a cliet up and running, the next step, entering the server, is not apparent from default setups. With IM, the 'server' and the 'room' are predefined, so all you need to do is open the client and you're there. Much simpler for average joes.
  • Interface issues - the fact that IM generally can be run from a docklet (taskbar), while IRC requires window real estate, generally means it's easier to keep IM open at all times.
  • Locating People - The only easy ways for this to work on IRC is hope that the person you are looking for is using the same nick they always have, and that the /notify works for you. On the other hand, since you can't change usernames on the fly on IM, you will always be able to locate somebody unless that person has completely left the system (and dropped the username).
  • The 'Instant' part - assuming from the above that you leave your IM client open at all times, then you have a quick way of dropping a line to a person without having to open a mail client (Yes, with today's computers, that's negliable, but think from a joe average POV). The fact that many of the features of IRC and email are grouped into IM as features you can access 'instantly' without opening another program is a plus to most people.
  • Location independence - As long as you have a copy of the IM client and an internet connection, you can check into IM and look at your messages, files, or whatever without having to download them at that time --- and then when you get to your 'home' machine, proceed to grab them. With IRC, you're limited to any services bots that might be there for messages, and totally SOL'ed with files.
  • Legitamite business uses - Many businesses are beginning to use IM as a way for interoffice communication, since for power computer users, sending off an instant message can be faster than picking up the phone and calling that person. In addition, it's easy to connect two sites of the same company without incuring long distance changes. And as pointed out in regards to the AOL/TW merger, the potental to add video conferencing to AOL's IM is there -- instant video communications with fellow workers is a dream for many PHBs.

Now certainly there are much better things about IRC than IM, IMO, but most are related to the stability and scalability of the system. In addition, there's some privacy concerns, given that with IM, all your information and messages are going through a central server. And there are some things that IM can do that IRC can't, and vice versa. But from John Q. Public, those 'important' features are in IM, and not IRC.

Re:IRC anyone? (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 13 years ago | (#496610)

MSN IM doesn't allow you to send messages to somebody who is offline, or if you're in invisible mode. I had to install it for work, and I hate it. I can't belive a 350K d/l made me reboot too! Anyway, I've already typed several message and they had it tell me that it couldn't connect due to that person going off line. It's a POS. Somebody in another thread had indicated that AOL IM is similar. Yahoo IM is the best that I've tried!

Re:And Yahoo!... (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 13 years ago | (#496611)

Yahoo IM is my favourite. I just had to install MSN IM for work, and I hate it. Yahoo IM lets me stay invisible, but still send and receive messages. It lets me send messages to people who are not there, and it lets me take messages when I'm logged of. Conferencing is easy. It maintains one connection, logging me off when I log on from another machine. It doesn't require a reboot to install. It's cross platform.

Re:use which one? (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 13 years ago | (#496612)

Personally I prefer the Yahoo IM over MSN IM. It doesn't look as flashy as the MSN one, but it has better functionality. It doesn't require a reboot to install either.

MessengerA2Z (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 13 years ago | (#496613)

Does anybody know what is going on with MessengerA2Z. I contacted them asking for the source code under the GPL. They responded that it would be available very shortly on sourceforge, but I haven't seen the site change at all: []

Wait, what about DiversiDial? (1)

bjb (3050) | more than 13 years ago | (#496615)

Oh, sorry.. I'm about 10 years too late for that one...

Why should we care? (2)

ragnar (3268) | more than 13 years ago | (#496616)

I don't understand the allure of IM. I have used it before, but it just feels like stupid email. Before you know it, you have burnt an hour yacking back and forth. I have much more meaningful exchanges over email, where there is a buffer of time. Having something instant often just coddles idle communication.

Maybe I'm old fashioned about it, but I figure IRC is a better way of doing this stuff, but then I also don't like IRC that much. Like MUDs and other things, they steal a lot of time. IRC, MUD and IM are the sitcoms of the internet.

And Yahoo!... (2)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 13 years ago | (#496617)

Yahoo! [] does IM too, including voice.

Don't forget Yahoo Messenger (1)

Wiktor Kochanowski (5740) | more than 13 years ago | (#496619)

It's a really nice client, as proprietary ones go. What sold me on it is that it was (as of 1.5 years ago) the only IM software that supported messaging over HTTP proxies. It comes for Linux and Java, too. And you can easily turn off the ad banner. What I don't like about it is that it sometimes drops messages, without any warnings (but then AFAIK all IM clients do).

Something I don't get.. (4)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 13 years ago | (#496620)

Microsoft is complaining that they cannot make a client communicating with the AIM/ICQ networks because AOL keeps the protocol proprietary.

Yet there are tons of free/open software clients working flawlessly. If we can figure it out, why can't they? Are they more vulnerable to legal action from AOL regarding reverse engineering?

Re:Anyone else tried Odigo? (1)

cdh (6170) | more than 13 years ago | (#496621)

Ug. Yes, I tried Odigo and deemed it crap almost immediately. It could never log me into Yahoo and it's AIM support was flaky. I guess I wasn't looking for the people finder part, I just wanted a unified messenger similar to Gaim or Everybuddy on Unix (I run them on Solaris, therefore I won't say "for linux") but for Windows. It sounded promising, but in practice it pretty much sucks.

Re:Why should we care? (3)

garcia (6573) | more than 13 years ago | (#496622)

sorry, emails are difficult to use for standard conversation and due to the lag of sending the messages it makes it difficult to get a quick response...

IRC *was* a great chat system in the past. I still use it at times but honestly most people aren't willing to learn it, the lag is horrible at times, all the netsplits suck, and the recent DOS attacks make it less alluring than it used to be.

AIM has made phone calls pretty much worthless in college. When you are asking someone if they are going out it is a lot less work to double click their name and type the message than have to wait for the rings, the answer, and possibly the answering service of choice...

IMHO there is no real threat to AOL. I used to use ICQ but became annoyed by the constant barage of porn spam. IRC sucks because of the above. AIM has integrated file sending, group chat, and everything that ICQ, or IRC has...

Yes, this is all a matter of opinion on my part, but I really feel that AIM has changed the way that the Internet chat world is... I walk through the dorms and see MANY MANY people chatting away w/tons of people at the same time (not just people that know how to use ICQ or IRC).

Just my worthless .02

Re:But where are the public servers? (2)

cymen (8178) | more than 13 years ago | (#496623) [] has a list of all the public servers with all the gateways they have installed.

Tribal Voice a THREAT? Hah! (5)

hatless (8275) | more than 13 years ago | (#496624)

Tribal Voice's PowWow has been around longer than AOL's internet gateway to its instant messaging. They have always had tacky, cheap-looking software and a small number of active users. Three million? Sure, maybe cumulative in the 5 years after they first launched.

They had more active users than MSN and Yahoo instant messaging in the end? I find that hard to believe. This is like saying Vivo is still a "threat" to RealPlayer and MS Media Player, or that the Amiga is a "threat" to anything.

Like many CMGI acquisitions, TribalVoice was a cheap, third-rate product snapped up at a fire-sale price from yet another owner that couldn't make it fly.

Re:IRC anyone? (2)

grahamm (8844) | more than 13 years ago | (#496625)

Maybe because IRC is only realtime. It does not enable leaving messages when the recipient is offline. But email is ideal for when the correspondents are not online at the same time, so IM is not needed in that situation either.

Hate to say it but... (2)

Servo (9177) | more than 13 years ago | (#496626)

AIM is probably the easiest to use, and I still use it. I also use ICQ, which is my preferred app, since I can communicate in ways other than just typing back and forth. I'll probably get rid of AIM one day, but I will stick to ICQ. I know AOL, a big evil corporation makes this stuff, but it still doesn't mean that it isn't useful. (I had the displeasure of working for them... trust me, its even more disorganized on the inside than it appears!)

Re:Yahoo? (1)

Trith (10719) | more than 13 years ago | (#496628)

ICQ and AIM have this too now days... but yes, Yahoo had it back when they didn't.


Yahoo? (2)

Trith (10719) | more than 13 years ago | (#496629)

I cannot believe you forgot Yahoo. It is small, fast, stores your contact list on the server, has almost no ads, and has Linux and FreeBSD clients.

They are also on the IMunited committee.


Re:And Yahoo!... (1)

woodforc (10906) | more than 13 years ago | (#496630)

Everyone I know uses Yahoo IM.

Don't like marketing hype, try Jabber.ORG (2)

Carl (12719) | more than 13 years ago | (#496631)

If you don't like all the marketing hype and shockwave movies don't go to, but try the Free Software community site www.jabber.ORG [] .

Re:[Kinda OT] Jabber... (1)

BigZaphod (12942) | more than 13 years ago | (#496632)

Perhaps you should be the first person you know to try, then. :-) I use Jabber exclusivly now and by using the Jabber transports I'm able to chat with friends on AIM and ICQ while talking directly with Jeremie (head Jabber honcho) using Jabber. There's really more to the Jabber idea than IM, but that's how it got started so it's likely to appear that Jabber is just an IM solution for a long time. However, since it is all XML based, you can really transmit any form of data just as you would send a regular Jabber IM. That opens up huge possibilites for inter-program communications across the Internet (for example). It's a really big idea under the hood, but you have to get in there and play with it to understand it. Check out jabber.ORG (not .com) if you want to find out cool technical details.


Dissenter (16782) | more than 13 years ago | (#496635)

I have to say that I am sick and tired of all of these services and their incompatiability. I have been using IRC forever. ICQ for 3 years. AIM for a year and I had to get MSN's Instant-Messaging-Somthing-Or-Other the other night because a couple of my friends don't use the other tools I have. Last night I was talking to 4 people. Every one of them was chatting using a different service! I had no desktop space, just because of the applications' listings. I'm tired of it. Soneone HAS to make something for Windows so I can have things as nice as they are in Linux. If you are still looking for a Linux solutionm read this months issue of Maximum Linux. There's a great article that reviews about 15 linux clones for compatability, abilities and how manny messaging systems they can use at once.


Sofunky (1)

cwernli (18353) | more than 13 years ago | (#496636)

Although it's not a major player yet, it definitely has potential: Webbased IM, entirely over http. Check it out at [] .

Re:MINE! MINE! (2)

Rombuu (22914) | more than 13 years ago | (#496637)

I swear it is just like watch a bunch of preschoolers arguing over a toy or something.
Unfortunately, there is nobody to come in and make them "share".

Why the hell should AOL share? They spent the money to develop the service and view it as a differentiation to sell their services. Its their servers and they should have the right to tell other people who want to use them to go screw themselves.

You can bet if IM had failed, all of AOL's competitors wouldn't be falling over themselves to help AOL pay for their failure....

Re:IRC anyone? (3)

HoldenCaulfield (25660) | more than 13 years ago | (#496638)

Why are people using incompatible Instant Messangers, when there is IRC? IRCs protocol is open, it has clients for nearly every OS and arch, and only because A uses mIRC and B uses xchat it doesn't mean they can't talk to each other...

There are probably quite a few reasons for this . . . the one that comes to mind first is the fact that instant messengers are somewhat more user-friendly than IRC. Extra features, such as voice or graphical smileys could also be a reason.

Expanding on the user friendly thread, registered screen names/nicks could be an issue as well. Granted there are services on some of the IRC networks but they're not simple point and click deals. You have to learn the commands, which are often beyond the grasp of regular Windows users. And dialup users can forget having a 24/7 connection, or perhaps eggdrops to keep their nicks on networks that don't have nick services.

Yet another reason could be the sheer number of IRC networks. I usually have 2 irc clients open so I can be on two networks simultaneously, to stay in touch with different groups of people. (Admittedly, I know of people who run 2 or more IM clients as well.)

And perhaps the biggest reason is AOL itself. Every subscriber they have is automatically an IM user, and if you want to converse in real time with AOL users, IM is the easiest way to do so. AOL users have no real reason to go and learn IRC, when most of the people they want to chat with have accepted, and use, AOL's defacto standard.

[Kinda OT] Jabber... (4)

PimpBot (32046) | more than 13 years ago | (#496639)

I go to one of the top CS schools [] and I have never seen anyone actually use Jabber or its clones...but Hemos et. al. seem to treat it like its popular and everyone uses it...

Do people out there actually use it, and if so, what's so great about it? Or is this just GNU/FUD? ;-)

Re:And Yahoo!... (2)

joshamania (32599) | more than 13 years ago | (#496640)

AND, Yahoo Messenger has both a Java and a pure Linux client. Last I checked, you could do voice with neither, but I think that has more to do with the piss-poor support for sound under Linux (read: this is Creative's fault) than anything else.

Anyway, Yahoo Messenger is pretty big, isn't it? I and a multitude of my friends use it. In fact, I don't know anyone who uses AIM...

But where are the public servers? (1)

Pingo (41908) | more than 13 years ago | (#496641)

I have been very interested in using Jabber but have not been able to find any public servers to use.


Re:Regarding Jabber (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 13 years ago | (#496642)

BeOS has a few good IM clients other than Jabber (which just came out for Be). For AOL IM, there's BeAIM. It looks nice and is easy to use. There are at least 3 ICQ clients that I know of...ICBMx86, GimmiICQ and Gimmick. The latter two are a bit flaky IMO. ICBMx86 (intercontinental ballistic messenger) works well. It takes a very minimalist approach - just a little grey box with your buddy lists and pop-up windows for chat.

BazIRC (1)

Necroman (61604) | more than 13 years ago | (#496644)

Back in the day when I actually had free time, and was coding for fun, me and a few friends thought that would be the best client ever to right. I do agree that IRC would be a good alternative to all these IM services, but if a client was developed that acted as an IM client while using IRC server, you would be set. You could have it connect to some popular irc networks (not just one, for backup reasons), and just go from there... would not be that hard.

Its not what it is, its something else.

IRC Instant Messenger for BeOS (1)

Hasues (63342) | more than 13 years ago | (#496647)

QNI is an instant messenger that uses IRC as its protocol. Its for BeOS. You can see it at BeBits. Granted its just a suggestion app, meant it was created with little features or functionality as it was just to get people's opinions. If you want to talk to the creater, go to #beos and look for YNOP. As for Jabber, it is still under development...that is the only excuse I can use for such a poor messenger system. The project is poorly documented, especially when concerning transports. Moreover, a number of the Jabber servers I have tried using can't guarantee that the transports work. I think using IRC would be a great idea. You could implement a way for the messages to be stored for offline messaging (heaven forbid someone actually have to implement something with no vision).


Work? (2)

bdavenport (78697) | more than 13 years ago | (#496652)

we use AIM at work - i would say it is a vital tool to our everyday development environment.

sure, we also use email and newsservers, but unlike these asynchronous-type mediums, chat proggys are synchronous (or at least more so than email.) when i pop a question to a mate, i usually get a prompt response...whether i am asking him for the next round of foosball or if the SQL server is up.

just b/c you don't see a use for it, don't think that it isn't useful to others. i am very happy in my open environment now where i have email and AIM, as opposed to the corporate hell-hole i worked for previously who wouldn't let us run AIM at all....

it's like everything else a tool!

Re:And Yahoo!... (1)

ovapositor (79434) | more than 13 years ago | (#496653)

Indeed, the voice calling feature is better than MS's. I think the Yahoo product definately has some legs to it.

broadcast? (1)

holzp (87423) | more than 13 years ago | (#496654)

does anybody remember Broadcast? a macos networking tool which enabled a very early primitive version of peer-to-peer chat? it was all the rage on campus in 1995-96...

Re:Why use IRC? (1)

Xuli (98764) | more than 13 years ago | (#496656)

Hey, now... I agree with the diff. progs for diff. things. I use IRC all the time, but at work, or when I need to quickly poke my head into someones proverbial office, I send an IM, usually using Yahoo Messenger (which, I'm surprised wasn't mentioned.)

There is def. something to be said for the small footprint, one-click-startup-and-sign-on features of the progs. that are out there. I don't think it's a matter of 1337-nees, it's just convenience... and I didn't even need to condescend to anyone.

Re:Why should we care? (1)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#496657)

Nah, I think it's better to say that IM is the telephone of the internet and IRC is the partyline of the internet.

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#496658)

I think IM for chatting just tends to be easier in general. You don't have all the other people talking about crap you don't want to talk about while you're trying to have a conversation. Plus with all the skript kiddies DoSing all the IRC servers you're lucky to find your buddy on at the same time you are.

Look at the popularity of GAIM for Linux, it's better then the windows client and widely used by *nix people. Hell, I used it on my solaris box at my old job.

Re:Where is the revenue created by IM programs? (1)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#496659)

That's a very good question. And AIM has toc, the open server that most non-ad-serving clients use. How could the possible make ANY money out of that.

I know ICQ sells a copy of their server for inter-office use, but I can't see that market being very large. They have to pull a profit from somewhere..

Re:IRC anyone? (3)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#496660)

Mostly because IMs are more one-on-one then a chat room on IRC. sure, you can /msg people but IMs are more convient. I use both IRC and AIM, and sometimes I talk to the same people on both. it really depends on what I'm talking about and if I want a whole chatroom to hear it.

Also, at work, my boss HATES people to be on IRC, but for AIM/ICQ they don't really care, in fact we use ICQ for inter-office stuff all the time.

Ironically this might be a good thing. (1)

sommere (105088) | more than 13 years ago | (#496662)

Yeah, we opensourcers tend to hate monopolies. However, in this case it might be a good thing. Ideally everyone would be able to know if anyone else was online right? It wouldn't be a problem is Alice used AIM, Bob used ICQ, and Charlie used Jabber. Ideally they could all gossip about Dicks new haircut together online, right? Well AOL has almost cornered the market, and there is SOME chance that the AOL/TW merger will succesfully force AOL to allow others to interoperate. If this happens, I predict we all get what we want.

For a stable, well designed, easy to add features to, pretty e-mail client for X check out

Re:Yahoo? (1)

wonderbar (107763) | more than 13 years ago | (#496665)

Also I think that Yahoo uses port 80. So if your hyper-security conscious company has everything locked down everything barring the Web, you won't be able to use AIM but you can still use Yahoo.

Anyone else tried Odigo? (2)

galego (110613) | more than 13 years ago | (#496667)

at Odigo [] , they make an IM tool that is pretty much open for anyone to use, well 'cept *n*x users. So...let me rephrase that...they make an IM tool that is pretty much available to a large number of computer owners/users.

But the cool part is that you can go online to the AIM, Yahoo! and ICQ networks from one IM interface. The only quip is that AOL sets up some block regularly (at least last time I used Odgio, need to set it up on my home/new work box). But Odigo would inevitably bypass it.

Overall, I liked it and used it. It also allowed you to find people (If you're looking for love, conversation, etc.) by profiles or make yourself invisible. They are making a Mac version now, which they didn't before...don't see why they wouldn't make a Linux version. Would the source open up? Dunno! Anyone else use it/know of any Odigo for Linux movements?


Now... (1)

Raymond Luxury Yacht (112037) | more than 13 years ago | (#496668) it true that Microsoft is crying foul over AOL's not opening their AIM up to MS-Messenger? As in not allowing MS Messenger users not being able to talk to users on AIM?

I remember hearing on the radio a news report that they were actually going to court for (get this) AOL stifling competition in this market. I've been all over looking for the story, but can't find it. Anyone else hear about this, and if you have do you happen to have a link? I could use a good laugh :-)

Re:But where are the public servers? (2)

Trinition (114758) | more than 13 years ago | (#496670)

Check out JavverView [] . They maintain a short list of public Jabber servers with useful information about each.

It's a good thing you didn't ask me about STABLE Jabber servers. I don't know what I could've answered then.

Regarding Jabber (4)

Trinition (114758) | more than 13 years ago | (#496671)

There's actually more then just Pow Wow left - Jabber comes to mind, but the field has definitely narrowed over the last few years.

Sure, Jabber is there, but I think it will be a long time, unfortunately, before it has anything meaningful to offer.

The server, to my knowledge, only runs on Linux, and still has some bugs -- especially in the agents. The clients (I've only tried the Windows flavor) are either buggy or lacking in features -- or both!

In fact, I tried experimentally to use Jabber last week instead of AIM (I tried JabberIM, WinJab and myJabber). I had to change servers twice because the previous one shut down an agent, or shut down completely. Each time, I essentially had to hand-enter my Roster items (a.k.a. buddy list) again since there is no way to import/export rosters.

I'm pretty close to installing VMWare and running Linux in it so I can run a Jabber server and develop my own client. But, who am I kidding? I don't have time for that!

I'll just stick to AIM, with all of its glorious bloat, for now

Re:When monopolies fight... (1)

ekidder (121911) | more than 13 years ago | (#496672)

Or, whoever survives will just be stronger - and by an amount proportionate to their opponent :) And since they're both huge, the winner will be.. damned huge.

Re:Where is the revenue created by IM programs? (1)

ekidder (121911) | more than 13 years ago | (#496673)

There's an option to turn off that window, too :) I've got my home machine setup to do that. Makes life muuuuch happier.

Re:And Yahoo!... (1)

thallgren (122316) | more than 13 years ago | (#496674)

Not only for Linux, they have a version for FreeBSD as well.

Regards, Tommy

Re:Regarding Jabber (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 13 years ago | (#496675)

a long, loooooooong time. I haven't tried the Linux versions (oh wait, I don't run Linux...) but WinJab and Jabber for BeOS are both horribly buggy and display useless, incomprehensible error messages. Maybe AOL did learn a thing or two when trying to write software dumbed down for the masses and maybe they're able to apply that to their own software? Bloated or not, it's easy to use, and that's the bottom line.

A friend pointed me at altavista's chat client, which handles ICQ, AIM, MSN, and Yahoo, but I haven't followed up on that to see if he's for real...
Lord Omlette
ICQ# 77863057

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

mrfiddlehead (129279) | more than 13 years ago | (#496683)

Right. There are enough morons bleeting away on IRC as it stands.

Re:use which one? (1)

Storm Damage (133732) | more than 13 years ago | (#496684)

My contactlist is kept serverside. (or is this a disadvantage?)

This is a mixed blessing. AOL also keeps contact lists server-side, but only for the AOL-member version of their IM client (AIM stores contact lists client-side). The nice thing about server-side contact lists is the ease with which a user can port their account from one computer to the next. The problem with this is privacy/security issues.

Actually, all of the IM clients have one or two great features, along with some headache causing frustrations. Each one has a different piece of the puzzle. For instance, ICQ has the feature to require a user's authorization for another user to contact them. Unfortunately they botch the delivery of this feature by keeping the authentication client-side (no doubt a load off their servers, but a simple crack to older versions of the client allow malicious users to contact privacy-minded individuals whether they like it or not). Another result of client-side authentication is that users must repeatedly ask authorization to contact a friend every time they install the client on a new system.

Yahoo has better support over http proxies, AIM is almost entirely spam-free (although a few changes to the default configuration keep my ICQ spam to an easily dealt-with minimum).

I'd like to see these features in a universal IM client, should open standards develop in this arena:
* Local storage/management of contact list, but with an easy interface for exporting/importing contacts between clients on multiple computers
* Server-side authorization for contacting new users (possibly with a password feature for automatic authorization, allowing previously-authorized users or personal friends to automatically get authorization but without storing information on who is actually contacting who)
* Offline message delivery
* Multiple user peer-to-peer chat sessions
* File Transfer (possibly with the ability to publicly/privately share file directories and search for available files...users could choose to share certain files with publicly with the world, while keeping others restricted to users on their contact list, or even individual users...)
* Configurable user information, with the ability to offer different profiles to users with different levels of trust
* Standard privacy features such as the ability to make yourself invisible to certain users or groups of users, and the option to turn these off for those times your bored and really want to chat with strangers.

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

jon_adair (142541) | more than 13 years ago | (#496686)

Because I don't have time to deal with all the port-scanning, splits, channel floods, etc.

Its not that simple (2)

Srin Tuar (147269) | more than 13 years ago | (#496687)

There are two versions of the AIM protocol, one used by the nice AOL clients, and a less feature-full one used by the Free clients.(called oscar)

In order to use the full AIM protocol, you have to reverse engineer it - besause the specs are not given out, and plus you are vulnerable to blocking and bugs if you dont interact well with the AIM servers.

Microsoft is also unlike Free developers, since it has a large concentrations of liability absorbing capital. I.E., they can be sued. Until they get out from under the "Antitrust" issue, they are not likely to countersue or do any "Microsoft pressure" tactics to force the issue.

AIM vs. ICQ (2)

way2slo (151122) | more than 13 years ago | (#496688)

I use both messenger services and I am not unpleased with either of them. Still...

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why people prefer AIM over ICQ. ICQ can do everything that AIM can do and there are no ads on ICQ. (of course, you can remove the ads on AIM) If you want a real-time chat in ICQ you just open up a talk session. Someone sends you a message, and you get a notification in the sys tray, not a huge window. The beautiful thing is you can just let it sit there in the queue with ICQ. You'll get to it when you get to it. With AIM, this large window pops up right in your face. "You WILL chat with me!" Subtlety is a lost art.

The truth is that AOL spends all it's time pushing AIM and none on ICQ. That's tragic. AOL bought a great product/service in ICQ. It's just too bad that they are not giving it a real chance.

Re:Where is the revenue created by IM programs? (1)

bonzoesc (155812) | more than 13 years ago | (#496689)

Tired of AIM ads? Then you should use the AIMazing WinAmp plugin that covers them up with oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers. Haven't you been reading your /.?

Tell me what makes you so afraid
Of all those people you say you hate

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

cwilper (169499) | more than 13 years ago | (#496693)

Probably because IRC 1) isn't advertised as much 2) requires you to log into these giant servers, which don't all talk among themselves 3) is usually harder to use / is associated with more technical expertise, which not everyone cares to get into (i.e. grandma)

Re:Why should we care? (1)

cwilper (169499) | more than 13 years ago | (#496694)

Well, I for one use it constantly at work. Most of the time it's easier to ask a colleague a quick question with an IM than call thier office/wait for an email response.

When monopolies fight... (2)

fjordboy (169716) | more than 13 years ago | (#496695)

Wait...if AOL/timewarner/everything and Microsoft are feuding over this...should we be upset? THey are both huge companies!! They could destroy each other!!! /me prays!

also...I found a typo..there-can-onlby-be-one dept.
Hemos, how do you spell only? slow down on those keys! :)
of pointing out a spelling mistake, i have probably made several in this post....

Re:When monopolies fight... (2)

fjordboy (169716) | more than 13 years ago | (#496696)

or they will kill each other.....(that is what I am praying for) and a new company will rise up to take their place. Specifically [] (that is my dream at least...)

Re:Why should we care? (1)

ibirman (176167) | more than 13 years ago | (#496697)

I agree - email is better because you have to think a little more about what you are going to say, the same way that punched cards were better because you had to get it right or wait till the next day to try again.

HOWEVER, I don't always want to be deep and meaningful, I just want to say somehting quick, and that's when IM is so incredibly useful. It is much more like an informal conversation than it is like writing a letter.

Oh, and IRC is great, but it does not have the same one-one one feel as IM.

I agree that IM is not the ultimate communication tool, but it definitely has its niche.

Re:Where is the revenue created by IM programs? (2)

theedge420 (178254) | more than 13 years ago | (#496698)

ICQ doesn't have rotating ads like AIM and MSN, but the advertising is still there. Whenever you first start ICQ it pops up a window, with plenty of advertisments. Check out the ICQ homepage. Chock full of advertising. What AOL is failing to realize about ICQ is that it is not My Yahoo, or even AOL Lite. If they just stuck to a barebones IM client, instead of having all the bells and whistles of a "portal," I would be more willing to use them. The RAM that ICQ sucks up on a windows client is astounding.

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

Suppafly (179830) | more than 13 years ago | (#496699)

aol instant messager doesnt allow for messages to be left or the person if they are offline either.. and with bots and proper scripting, irc clients can..

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

Suppafly (179830) | more than 13 years ago | (#496700)

do a search for aol ip's sometime on irc.. there are many people that aol because its the only local isp they can get..

Re:Where is the revenue created by IM programs? (1)

Suppafly (179830) | more than 13 years ago | (#496701)

mine doesnt pop up the stupid webpage and im using the newest version.. although the newer version takes up loads of memory if you dont uninstall a ton of plugins.. also i regulary go thru the icq directory and delete things that i dont use that the program can live with out.. that annoying beep noise is easy to delete too then when you startup it cant find it to play it.. nice silent icq when i start my computer..

Re:broadcast? (1)

Suppafly (179830) | more than 13 years ago | (#496702)

i cant imagine a macos tool that was all the rage with any one save a small percentage..


Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#496703)

I swear it is just like watch a bunch of preschoolers arguing over a toy or something.

Unfortunately, there is nobody to come in and make them "share".

You can see parallels on a larger scale with other not so civilized types who come in and rip off people "for their own good".

"This reduction of service is by popular demand". etc.

a pox on all their houses.

use which one? (2)

revin (191651) | more than 13 years ago | (#496705)

Well, while the titans are fighting, we users can just have a look at the advantages of using one or other IM. Why should we or not use their products?
Actually I use both Microsoft IM and ICQ.

I use MS IM because:
I work at different offices on different nt through port 80, that is in most cases open to workstations and firewall configs, so IM connects preserve internet browsing to their employees. In most cases I am unabled to use ICQ.
You can check your hotmail account (that I use for the same reason as MS IM) without actually browsing to the webpage.
My contactlist is kept serverside. (or is this a disadvantage?)

I use ICQ because:
I can send messages to people not online, they'll receive it when they come online
There is a version for my linuxbox
I don't get adds

Re:IRC anyone? (2)

SlashGeek (192010) | more than 13 years ago | (#496706)

Probably because IRC is too 1337 for the average AIM user. AIM is stupid easy to set up, all their "AOL" friends are on it, and a good deal of AIM users have migrated from AOL because they got broadband, or went to college and have full time connections (and they can leave their answering machine on 24/7)etc. and still want to chat with their AOL friends. It's easy, it's free, and it does what they need it to do. And AOL has even written a Linux version of AIM, albeit with a quater of the functionality of the Win version, and IMHO doesn't hold a candle to GAIM. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with IRC, it's great really. But compared to AIM, it requires too much effort for the average user.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Re:What about an IM that was based on IRC? (1)

Todd Bradley (192917) | more than 13 years ago | (#496707)

How about an open source IM that looks like a classic AIM/ICQ/YIM client, but not only speaks IRC, but all the other IM protocols, too? And what if it was a distributed network, like email?

That's Jabber.

Re:But where are the public servers? (1)

Todd Bradley (192917) | more than 13 years ago | (#496708)

As far as a plain old Jabber server goes, the server is probably the most stable you'll find. However, if you're trying to talk to your AOL buddies, you'll have to wait another couple weeks: []

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 13 years ago | (#496709)

Also, at work, my boss HATES people to be on IRC, but for AIM/ICQ they don't really care, in fact we use ICQ for inter-office stuff all the time.

Isn't this just a little strange? There doesn't seem to be any objective (business) reason to prefer one over the other, so this leaves me wondering if it isn't some sort of cultural bigotry. Kind of like "alcohol is a good drug used by us normal Joe's, but pot is a bad drug used by slackers, long-haired hippy freaks, and people that put their babies in microwaves.

Is IRC the messaging software of choice for liberals and child molesters?


Damn microshaft die (1)

Aquafina (198114) | more than 13 years ago | (#496710)

Right now it's between aol and microsoft. I don't like monopolies either, but don't you think microsoft has just way too much power? I'd rather aol have the monopoly on im and their isp service. At least that way Microsoft has some real competition.

Can you imagine if the fcc forced aol to open up their IM protocol? If they do it'd be 6 months away from microsofot taking it over. They'll embed it in their os, in all future versions of IE, in all Office suites, etc... You get the idea right? Remember how MS defeated Netscape?

Besides, the damn thing's free to download anyways. Why's MS so damn interested in the protocol? What do you think?

2 (small) points (2)

mirko (198274) | more than 13 years ago | (#496711)

  1. There's actually more then just Pow Wow left
    Did you forget to pay the typo tax, Hemos? ;-)
  2. Well, at least this means Everybuddy [] won't need some new "driver" for newer services.
    Except if AOL/MSN, etc. just decide to update their protocols to force the public to upgrade towards their tools...


Re:IRC anyone? (1)

w.p.richardson (218394) | more than 13 years ago | (#496714)

Here is the main reason...

In the world of Windows, AIM is widely used by newbies, as is AOL. So when Person A gets set up with AIM, and then person A tells their friends, the user bases grows rapidly (viral marketing). To use IRC, first of all, you have to know that it exists, and then you have to figure out how to use it. I personally don't think it's that tough, but your average AOL user probably wouldn't.

I hate msmsgs.exe!!! (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#496715)

All of the computers in the lab start up with it, and I hate it so much that I don't just close msmsgs, I terminate its process.

Re:2 (small) points (1)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 13 years ago | (#496716)

AOL and MSN aren't going to change their protocols. They may extend them but they won't do anything that will break their old clients because doing so would make a lot of people angry possibly losing them a lot of customers.

"Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto"
(I am a man: nothing human is alien to me)

Yahoo! (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 13 years ago | (#496717)

Why not just use Yahoo Messenger? In my opinion, it's the best chat client out there. It's easy to use, and it has a ton of features, like all of the content, and the ability to talk to your cell phone.

Competition is healthy (1)

ishrat (235467) | more than 13 years ago | (#496718)

We all know that it is so, but it is healthier when there are just few strong competitors and not scores of small ones. They just mess up the market space without any useful impact.

Re:Where is the revenue created by IM programs? (1)

Calle Ballz (238584) | more than 13 years ago | (#496719)

The only chat clients that I use are IRC and ICQ. And since i'm on broadband, i'm connected to both 24/7. I know the ICQ thing pops up the first window, but if you press spacebar as soon as it pops up it closes it and you don't have to see it. Also, Because i use a way older version of ICQ (I don't know how the newer versions work), I never go to the ICQ web page. I know that I, myself have never contributed in anyway to ICQ's funding.

My question still, is why is something that probably doesn't produce too much cash, something of extremely high competition?

Where is the revenue created by IM programs? (3)

Calle Ballz (238584) | more than 13 years ago | (#496720)

I see that AIM has their own little AOL ads embedded, and MSN IM has their own MSN ads embedded into them, but ICQ never pops up any ads on me. Why is it that there is this stupid competition out there for a chat service? Do AOL & Microsoft want to collect terabytes of pre-teen chatting? What is the deal?

Re:[Kinda OT] Jabber... (1)

Sparkster (253712) | more than 13 years ago | (#496723)

yes and it is important. just imagine you would have to choose AOL Email oder Microsoft Email and every public mail server would be owned by AOL or Microsoft. what a great scenario. IM is just the next step in internet communications, but it will never be really usefull, until it is free like email, irc, etc. jabber is the only way to go.

AOL IM (2)

Seeka (258435) | more than 13 years ago | (#496724)

When my gaming clan originally made the form for our join page, ICQ was required. However, once I went around checking what everybody had, ALL of the members already had AIM, while only 3 or 4 had ICQ. I'm not suprised. I've grown to like AIM more than ICQ, if only for it's quick messaging. I've customized it so it works for me, pretty much. The annoying sounds only ring when I first get a message, and I changed them to a random sound depending on my mood...

I think AIM's warning system is a pile of crap. In fact, BLOCK should be the ONLY option, and it should be taken effect immediately. As of right now, If you respond to a message and then block someone when they start warning you, they can still warn you to their full extent.. Wha? That's totally abused... Not to mention AOL's stupid system of allowing anyone to create any name at any time... All it asks for is differant email addresses. Hell, I have UNLIMITED email addresses. I could sit there all nite and create. There is no limit! Even if you use the SAME email, you can still do it 5 or so times before it asks you to change!

I don't know whether to be excited or scared. After AOL bought ICQ and Netscape, the world has been a scary place. Gah.


What about Odigo? (2)

digidave (259925) | more than 13 years ago | (#496725)

Odigo [] is an AOL and ICQ-compliant IM. Whenever AOL finds a way to cut them off, Odigo releases a patch fix a day later :)

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

Peejeh (260114) | more than 13 years ago | (#496726)

to be honist, i don't want thousands of AOL or MSN users bleeting away on IRC, i'm happy to let them have their pretty pop-up boxes and door bell sound effects while i can just chat to my mates in the "no-fuss" environment which is IRC.

IRC anyone? (2)

cgeb (260189) | more than 13 years ago | (#496728)

Why are people using incompatible Instant Messangers, when there is IRC? IRCs protocol is open, it has clients for nearly every OS and arch, and only because A uses mIRC and B uses xchat it doesn't mean they can't talk to each other...

Choosing the least of two evils... (1)

imevil (260579) | more than 13 years ago | (#496729)

Or good ones which get less than 5% of the popular consense

Hey that reminds me your elections.

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

tekker430 (261358) | more than 13 years ago | (#496730)

Uhh, no. What it is is this... you cant connect to a decent IRC network. In my case, I *CANT* log onto a EFNet IRC server. Why? I have no clue. I am a MediaOne subscriber and I cant connect to ANY EFNet server.

What about DALNet? Sure, if you want pr0n or w473z.

AIM is simply easier to use, and doesnt block you because some other morons decided to flood the server, making them block access from half the net.

Personally, I have done web development for different people over the past few years, and most of them are *NOT* computer illiterate, but they also dont know IRC because they aren't geeks (like most of us here :)), they know IM cause its simple and to the point.

So what if my spelling sucks! :-P

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

tekker430 (261358) | more than 13 years ago | (#496731)

good point!

Re:IRC anyone? (1)

moz25 (262020) | more than 13 years ago | (#496732)

Fewer DOS attacks perhaps...? My experience with IRC is (at least in some channels) that people often childishly pingflood, etc whatever person they dislike. Fun....


(D)DOS attacks? (2)

moz25 (262020) | more than 13 years ago | (#496733)

Ok, I'm wondering... how much does ICQ/IM/etc have to suffer from DOS attacks relative to e.g. IRC?
I'm guessing AOL has some bandwidth to spare, but still...

Is this less bad since there are no 'channels' to take over or what?


Re:When monopolies fight... (1)

Schnedt Microne (264752) | more than 13 years ago | (#496734)

When the elephants fight, they stomp on all the other animals in the field.

Chicks (1)

Schnedt Microne (264752) | more than 13 years ago | (#496735)

How come nobody here will say the obvious?

You don't meet people of the female persuasion on IRC. They're all on the IM systems.

Re:Now... (1)

rydstedt (264764) | more than 13 years ago | (#496736)

Eric Raymond wrote about AOL's use of shifting standards for IM in August 1999: . His headline "Microsoft Is Right!"

Open standards for IM? (1)

Pogue Mahone (265053) | more than 13 years ago | (#496737)

Interesting that the nice Mr. Gates should be clamouring for open standards to be enforced by the FCC. Whatever next?

Re:broadcast? (1)

Pogue Mahone (265053) | more than 13 years ago | (#496738)

What about talk? Been around much longer. My Linux here (SuSE) has the client and man-page, but the daemon isn't running. It works on the Solaris box though.
AFAIK clients also exist for WinXX.
Advantage is that it doesn't need a central server at all (true peer-to-peer), but you need to know the address of the host where your intended victim is logged in.
Disadvantage: anyone can talk to you - great for DOS attacks :-( ... how does IM prevent that?

Re:[Kinda OT] Jabber... (1)

mattsmigs (302544) | more than 13 years ago | (#496739)

I use Jabber all the time, and although it is sometimes tempremental, it saves me system resources no end. What I'm really excited about is the JabberZilla [] client, and the ability to access IRC thorugh Jabber, saving yet more memory! Smigs

Re:What about Odigo? (1)

simstick (303379) | more than 13 years ago | (#496740)

Also connects to Yahoo. Thank you very much for this tip. Rob

How to make a Jabber Client... (1)

XBL (305578) | more than 13 years ago | (#496741)

Developing a Jabber client should be easy. All you basically need is a TCP socket and a Sax parser to get started.

All of the hard stuff is handled by the Jabber server. The client just puts a UI on it, and sends and receives events with the server.
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