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GAIM Goes to Pidgin

Years of legal wrangling between AOL and the open source instant messenger GAIM has resulted in a settlement forcing GAIM to change its name. Enter Pidgin.

GAIM has provided support for AOL's AIM protocol in an open source client. But AOL never liked the fact that GAIM includes "AIM" in its name and has finally emerged successful in its effort to get the project renamed.

Open Source wunderkind Mark Spencer, who is perhaps better known as the leader of the Asterisk open source VoIP effort, originally called GAIM GTK+ AOL Instant Messenger. In response to criticism and legal challenges from AOL, Spencer changed the name to GAIM.

But over the years GAIM has grown from supporting just AIM to now being a multi-headed IM client supporting Live Messenger Service (a.k.a. MSN and .NET Messenger Service), Yahoo Messenger, Jabber and Google Talk (XMPP) and IRC among numerous other IM protocols. GAIM has also become a component of nearly every Linux distribution.

AOL let GAIM be for a few years, but according to a mailing list posting from GAIM developer Luke Schierer, AOL recently got aggressive again.

An AOL spokesperson declined a request to comment, noting that AOL does not comment on legal matters.

"Around the time of the first 2.0.0 beta, AOL came back into our lives in a very strong way, this time threatening to sue Sean," Schierer wrote.

Sean Egan is the lead developer of the GAIM project and is currently a Google employee. The GAIM community has been actively working on the GAIM 2.0 client for over a year and a half. At one point disgruntled community members alleged that it was Google that was driving the GAIM development process and possibly holding it back.

As it turns out it was the situation with AOL that was holding back GAIM from releasing its new version.

"On legal advice, we have refrained from any non-beta release during this process as a show of good faith and to keep AOL from giving up on it," Schierer wrote. "Again, on legal advice, we have also kept this information closely embargoed.

"At long last, I am pleased to announce that we have a signed settlement, and can again release," Scheirer continued. "There is one catch, however; we have had to change the project's name."

The project formerly known as GAIM has also set up a legal entity, which is responsible for the newly named Pidgin project. The entity is call the Instant Messaging Freedom Corporation.

Pidgin is also moving its development work away from SourceForge.net where GAIM is currently hosted. GAIM was routinely among the most active projects on SourceForge.net. Pidgin releases will continue to be mirrored on SourceForge, though bug tracking and mailing lists will now live at developer.pidgin.im.

Pidgin developers are now pledging to release Pidgin version 2.0 within the next week.