RE: AOL aid in an open source IM project

From: Steve Bush (
Date: Thu Mar 29 2001 - 15:20:07 PST

For several months, IM clients like Yahoo and MSN Messenger were able to
interoperate with AOL using the AIM protocols. Interoperability had a
great benefit for users but raised a ton of legal and business issues.
It also started a compatibility war between AOL and other IM clients.
AOL would detect other IM clients calling their servers and proactively
shut down thsee connections. The IM client community would hack around
the AOL change and interoperability would be restored until AOL figured
out how to detect the offenders. This continued for several months and
was quite intense for the developers involved.

AOL finally got smart and combined coding and copyright practices
together. IMHO, their solution though pisses me off is quite ingenious.
They built into the AOL protocol the requirement that a consistent array
of bytes must be on the users machine. To continue using the AOL
connection, an IM client needs to respond to a request for these bytes,
apply an MD5 hash, and return the result. In essence, they turned
aim.exe into an encryption key. The entire aim.exe needs to be
available. Developers cannot reproduce the array of bytes because this
violates copyright law.


 -----Original Message-----
From: Joseph S Barrera III []
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2001 12:51 PM
To: Tom WSMF
Cc: FoRK
Subject: Re: AOL aid in an open source IM project

And lo, Tom WSMF saith unto us:
> Heres an article that shows just how happpy and freindly AOL is to the
> community at large. Wheee

Wow, that's impressive. I wonder what happens when AOL has to rev
aim.exe? They can't have the servers recognizing an arbitrarily large
number of old aim.exe's, can they? I wonder if they'll just embed the
current aim.exe in all subsequent ones.

Or... they could just insist that users be with n revs of the most
recent aim.exe. Which would be evil but typical.

- Joe

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 27 2001 - 23:15:11 PDT