RealTime IT News

AOL Opens AIM for Open Source

For the last two years, AOL has been promoting its OpenAIM initiative as a vehicle to enable developers to build their own AIM (AOL Instant Messenger)-based clients. But there were issues with documentation that got in the way of some projects.

With the release of Open AIM 2.0 today, AOL is aiming AIM at open source developers with more ease-of-use tools.

Among the major changes in Open AIM 2.0 is the fact that AOL is now providing open documentation on its core OSCAR protocol (Open System for CommunicAtion in Realtime), which powers AIM. Previously, open source instant messaging client implementations of OSCAR had to reverse-engineer the protocol instead of simply using a documented protocol.

"Our protocols continue to evolve over time and reverse engineering is a hard way to stay up to date with all the changes," Greg Cypes, principal software engineer on AOL AIM, told InternetNews.com.

There is, however, a catch.

Although Open AIM 2.0 provides open access to the OSCAR protocols, developers need to do something for AOL in return. AOL requires that developers choose two options from a list of five items that must be added to an Open AIM-based client.

The list includes the addition of display ads, a link to include the AIM toolbar, showing AIM buddy icons, displaying AIM buddy information or displaying the AIM start page.

Cypes noted that a number of open source AIM implementations already provide the buddy icon and information features so he expects no major issues.

In addition to being open with OSCAR, Open AIM 2.0 also lifts the Open AIM 1.0 restriction on multi-headed clients. That is to say, Open AIM will now allow users to build IM clients that support AIM as well as IM protocols from other vendors, including Jabber (XMPP), Yahoo and Microsoft.

"The idea is we want to have the most open network and platform," Cypes said. "We want to foster as many IM conversations as possible, whether it's AIM to AIM or AIM to another service."

With Open AIM 2.0, AOL is also now enabling both PHP and Adobe Flash developers to more easily integrate AIM into their applications as well.

In April, AOL expects to Open AIM to revenue opportunities with developer with the integration of the AIM money effort, which will be a new advertising revenue sharing platform.

AOL claims that since the Open AIM effort debuted in 2006 more than 235,000 developers have signed on to the program.

"Open AIM when it launched was a first step at opening up AIM," Cypes commented. "I believe we're now ready to move to the next step."