AOL Opens AIM for Open Source

For the last two years, AOL has been promoting its OpenAIM
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

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

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

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.”

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