Can we chat about this?

AOL is blocking Trillian users again. This time, they are booting them off forcefully with a stern message stating "You have been disconnected from the AOL Instant Messaging Service (SM) for accessing the AOL network using unauthorized software." It really ticks me off because I much prefer Trillian to the 'authorized' AOL software.

AOL's behavior regarding this seems to indicate that they expect everyone using the AOL Instant Message network to run AIM (the real AOL software). That might be just peachy for them, but it isn't for the consumer. Let's think about this logically:

  1. You will never get everyone to use a single chat network. Just like you can't get everyone to use the same ISP or car or toothpaste. People like choice and they will make different choices. That's just the way people are.
  2. Chances are, someone from chat network A is going to have a friend in chat network B. It would be highly improbable that all the people that use one chat network only want to talk to people in that network.
  3. The majority of the chat network users have a hard enough time installing and running one chat utility, much less 2 or 3 (or 4).
  4. For some reason, people prefer simpler to complex.

It's unfortunate that there isn't a standard for instant message communication. You know, like we have for e-mail. It would be horrible if I had 3 or 4 different e-mail programs installed. One for e-mailing people on MSN, one for my misguided friends that use AOL and one for every other e-mail protocol. Each e-mail program would have it's own address book to maintain, it's own set of folders and history. Searching through my past communications would be quite difficult to say the least. Yet, we put up with this with the instant messaging software we use.

Something has got to change and soon. I'm finding that I do more IM communication than e-mail these days. Fortunately, Trillian is able to log them for me so I can refer back to things-- very crucial when you've been chatting about some business or what your plans are next month, etc. Sadly, AIM doesn't log anything.

I thought I had read that the FCC was requiring AOL to open their AIM network to others as a condition of their merger with Time-Warner. Turns out they only have to do that if they add video-conferencing features to AIM. Even if they did, I would probably still use Eyeball Chat instead.

So now I'm back to running Trillian (for MSN, Yahoo and ICQ) and AIM. Ugh. It breaks my perfect desktop and I don't like that.

Is it time to drop AIM? I'd like to-- unfortunately, the majority of my co-workers and friends use it. Maybe it's time to encourage them to use something else? But what? The other networks Trillian supports are also proprietary. AOL even owns ICQ and could lock Trillian out there as well. The same could happen to MSN and Yahoo connectivity. The only solution I'm aware of is the Jabber (and here) protocol. Completely open. I've been waiting a while for it to gain critical mass and so far it just hasn't happened. Maybe if Trillian would add support for Jabber the shift of the IM wars would change and the public would win. Wouldn't that be nice???

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This article was published on February 15, 2002 1:43 PM.

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