AOL Instant Messenger
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AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is an instant messaging and presence computer program which uses the proprietary OSCAR instant messaging protocol and the TOC protocol to allow registered users to communicate in real time. It was released by AOL in May 1997. Stand-alone official AIM client software includes advertisements and is available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Mac OS X, and Linux. The software, maintained by AOL, LLC, has the largest share of the instant messaging market in North America, especially in the United States (with 52% of the total reported as of 2006). This does not include other instant messaging software related to or developed by AOL, such as ICQ and iChat.
In September 1995, the "Buddy List" precursor to AIM was launched internally to AOL employees. The standalone AIM became available to non-subscribers May 1997. The release of AIM came over a decade after AOL's previous QuantumLink incarnation had offered "On-Line Messages" (OLMs) to its subscribers.
Since version 2.0, AIM has included person-to-person instant messaging, chatroom messaging, and the ability to share files Peer-to-peer with one's buddies. Version 4.3 introduced the storing of one's contact list on AOL's servers and allowed for a maximum of 200 buddies to be stored. In addition, in the 4.x versions, the AIM client for Microsoft Windows added the ability to play games against one another using the Wild Tangent engine. The first version released with WildTangent did not warn the user that it was going to be installed. Newer versions do, because many spyware scanners flag the WildTangent software as spyware.
The successor to AIM version 5.9 was originally named AIM Triton. Compared with version 5.9, Triton's programming code was rewritten and featured a brand new UI engine called Boxely. The first beta version of Triton (0.1.12) supported only Windows XP upon its release. For the first time in the development of a new version of AIM, these preliminary versions were made publicly available on the AIM home page for any user to test and provide feedback.
On September 29, 2006, Triton was renamed to AIM 6.0 and a new beta version was made available. This version slightly changed the UI. The final stable version of AIM 6.0 was released on December 15; new features included connection to AIM Pages, additional customization, and compatibility with address book programs and sites through a "Universal Address Book" powered by Plaxo. Additionally, the upgrade unified away messages and general user updates into RSS feeds and added the ability to send messages to offline users. Certain features that were missing from the previous version were also re-added, such as global font customization and a smaller cache usage, although the Get File function has yet to return. Also new in this release was the opening of AIM to developers, which allowed anyone to create plug-ins or custom AIM clients for Windows, Macintosh, or Linux.
The next version, 6.1, added Buddy List docking, support for inserting images into Buddy Info, the ability to change the highlight colors of the UI, improvements to the displaying of Linked Screen Names, several bug fixes, and improved Windows Vista support.
Version 22.214.171.124 supports status messages (similar to away messages), and has improved cell phone integration.
The standard protocol that AIM clients use to communicate is called OSCAR. Most AOL-produced versions of AIM and popular third party AIM clients use this protocol. However, AOL also created a simpler protocol called TOC that lacks many of OSCAR's features but is sometimes used for clients that only require basic chat functionality. The TOC/TOC2 protocol specifications were made available by AOL, while OSCAR is a closed protocol that third parties have had to reverse-engineer.
In January 2008, AOL introduced XMPP support for AIM, allowing AIM users to communicate using the standardized, open-source Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol. However, in March 2008 this service was discontinued.
AIM and AOL use several terms for elements of their instant messaging, which are different from other messengers. These include:
AIM is different from other clients such as Yahoo Messenger in that it does not require approval from one buddy to be added to another's buddy list. As a result, it is possible for users to keep other unsuspecting users on their buddy list to see when they are online, read their status and away messages, and read their profiles. However, one can block another user from communicating and also enhance privacy by selecting a menu option allowing communication only with those on one's buddy list.
AOL and various other companies supply robots on AIM that can receive messages and send a response based on the bot's purpose. For example, bots can help with studying, like StudyBuddy. Some are made to relate to children and teenagers, like Spleak, others give advice, and others are for more general purposes, such as SmarterChild. Prior to the inclusions of such bots, the bots DoorManBot and AIMOffline provided features that are provided today by AOL for those who needed it. ZolaOnAOL and ZoeOnAOL were short lived bots that ultimately retired their features in favor of SmarterChild.
AOL Instant Messenger's installation process automatically installs an extra URI scheme ("protocol") handler into some web browsers, so URIs beginning "aim:" can open a new AIM window with specified parameters. This is similar in function to the mailto: URI scheme, which creates a new e-mail message using the system's default mail program. For instance, a web page might include a link like the following in its HTML source to open a window for sending a message to the AIM user notarealuser:
To specify a message body, the
To specify an away message, the message parameter is used, so the link location might look like this:
When placing this inside a URL link, an AIM user could click on the URL link and the away message "Hello, my name is Bill" would instantly become their away message.
To add a buddy, the addbuddy message is used, with the screenname parameter
This type of link is commonly found on forum profiles, for easy adding of contacts
AIM is known for security weaknesses that have enabled exploits to be created that use third-party software to perform malicious acts on users' computers. Although most are relatively harmless, such as being kicked off the AIM service, others perform potentially dangerous actions such as harvesting IP Addresses and the sending of viruses. Some of these exploits rely on social engineering to spread by automatically sending instant messages that contain a URL accompanied by text suggesting the receiving user click on it, an action which leads to infection. These messages can easily be mistaken as coming from a friend and contain a link to a web address that installs software on the user's computer to restart the cycle.
On March 6, 2008, during Apple Inc.'s iPhone SDK event, AOL announced that they would be releasing an AIM application for iPhone and iPod Touch users. The application is available for free from the App Store, but the company also provides a paid version which displays no advertisements. Both are available from the App Store. The AIM client for iPhone and iPod Touch supports standard AIM accounts as well as MobileMe accounts. (MobileMe is a service which Apple offers. It costs a $99 fee per year and provides e-mail, calendar, contacts, web hosting, cloud storage and syncing. The email also functions as an IM account.) There is also an express version of AIM accessible through the Safari browser on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
AIM Express runs in a pop-up browser window. It is intended for use by people who are unwilling or unable to install a standalone application or those at computers that lack the AIM application. AIM Express supports many of the standard features included in the stand-alone client, but does not provide advanced features like file transfer, audio chat, video conferencing, or buddy info. It is implemented in DHTML. It is an upgrade to the previous AOL Quick Buddy, which was later available for older systems that cannot handle Express before being discontinued. Express and Quick Buddy are similar to MSN Web Messenger and Yahoo! Web Messenger.
AIM Pages was released in May 2006, allowing the 63 million AIM users to create an online, dynamic profile. The buddy list serves as the basis for the AIM Page social network. An AIM Page is built using modules following the ModuleT microformat. AIM Pages was discontinued in late 2007.
AIM for Mac
AOL released an all-new AIM for the Macintosh on September 29, 2008 and the final build on December 15, 2008. The redesigned AIM for Mac is a full universal binary Cocoa API application that supports both Tiger and Leopard - Mac OS X 10.4.8 (and above) or Mac OS X 10.5.3 (and above). On October 1, 2009, AOL released AIM 2.0 for Mac.
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