AIM Mailbag Part II

Last time on AIM Mailbag, we covered versioning, mobile privacy, colorizing screen names and of course the Mac AIM experience (or lack thereof)…and now the mailbag conclusion.

Q: What are some of the new key features being implemented in the upcoming versions of AIM?

A: I always love these questions, but hate answering them because plans are always changing but in addition since this is a public forum, I cannot share all my cards. With that being said, we continue to make important improvements in connectivity both with regards to just signing in through all sorts of network topology as well as for p2p activities like live audio and video. I think you will see improvements in how developers can interact with the client via plugins, which means that users will have cool add ons and extensions to make their AIM experience more fun. Tighter integration with mobile messaging is in the works, as well as handling all different types of mobile data. Like I said, it is not fun being vague, but we are working on some good stuff that will definitely get you excited in using AIM.

Q: Is AIM coming any closer to being inter operable with GTalk?

A: I was asked this same question in Dublin at MashupCamp a few weeks ago, and I will give the same answer. Both of us continue to work on an interop solution and when there is more to share you know you will be able to find it on this blog.

Q: There haven’t been a lot of AIM custom clients. Are you planning to introduce any yourselves?

A: My team is not actively writing any new custom clients, we have AIM Lite, however we have numerous partners who are writing custom clients right now. I am not sure how many full feature AIM clients you will see on Windows, but other platforms are actively being worked upon. Hopefully our partners will be sharing some news real soon.

Here is a quick list of some custom clients:


– AIM Lite

– AIM Pro

– Playlinc

– PCD Lounge

Q: My AIM MusicLink is still not working at all it will not show what song i am listening to through iTunes, WMP 11, or Yahoo Music Jukebox.

A: I have to say this one issue has baffled me. Here is what I am guessing is going on, first if you set yourself away and are expecting MusicLink to work, it will listen for your music, but updating the status will not work. Second, if you have installed iTunes in a directory other than the default path (c:program filesitunes) then MusicLink will not work because we need to import the interfaces to access the iTunes API. So if you have iTunes installed in a path other than the default please point it to the default and then all should work. For the other players I have tested against the latest WMP and Yahoo Music Jukebox as well as 10 of my independent testers and we have not been able to reproduce this case unless we are set as away. If you are experiencing problems what would help beyond AIM version and media player version is to make sure you note what your status is (away, idle, invisible, mobile, etc), and if you are signed in on multiple locations.

Q: Who is AIM’s chief software architect?

A: I never comment on personnel here at AOL, but from the Open AIM SDK point of view I am the lead evangelist/dev guy for Open AIM, thus the reason you will see me at conferences, etc.

Q: What do you and people from AIM dev and IM-Host dev team think about alternative clients that use directly OSCAR protocol, not AIMCC?

A: Interesting question. For those who do not know, OSCAR is AIM’s proprietary protocol for communication. OSCAR is very complex and has lots of antiquated and unused things in it, some of which are specific to AOL clients going back to AOL 5.0, and some of which are deprecated. Much like the reason why we did not open up the low layer libraries in AIM known as COOL, we feel like from an elegance and simplicity view, the Web AIM APIs and AIMCC provide a more manageable way of writing clients. In addition, things like libPurple and other libraries do not always interact with the protocol properly. Anyone notice that their buddy lists are not always displayed properly or that Adium does not do file transfer properly? As we evolve the protocol obviously things like Web AIM and AIMCC incorporate the changes immediately, while the unofficial libraries are slow to get these changes if at all.

AIM Mailbag Part I

I got a lot of questions, both on the blog and via the Wimzi widget on the right side of the blog, as a result I am going to break down the Mailbag in to two parts. Thanks for all the questions, and remember you can always ask questions not just when I am doing a mailbag. On with the questions:

Q: Could there be a way to have for privacy reasons the Cell/Mobile Icon be a preference where you can shut it off on your own will when connecting via mobile.

A: There is a preference in the Privacy Settings (AIM Buddy List Menu: Edit | Settings) to allow, or not allow others to see that you are mobile. If you uncheck that box, people will not see the icon. However if you are forwarding your IMs this preference will not work, so what happens when you set up mobile forwarding, is that you have an option of adding a group that can only send you IMs. This is accessible in the Mobile Settings accessible in the same way that Privacy Settings can be accessed. When the group is added to your buddy list, you can add buddies to the group, and only those buddies will see you online as mobile and be able to IM you. Here is the Mobile Preference window:

Q: Beta testers have been asking for actually colorized Screennames in their buddylists… like a buddy sound call it a buddy color. I am sure there is alot of technical issues to work out on that.

A: We actually have this in the API, in the IAccBartItem interface under the prop AccBartItemType_RichName. The only client that supports this is the AOL 9.0 client in both displaying the text and setting the text. What is interesting about this code is that it is very complex and a maintenance nightmare. I actually had the task of reverse engineering the protocol for this feature to support it in OpenAIM, and it was no picnic. In any case here is a screen capture of what custom colorized Screen Names in the Buddy List looks like in AOL:

I am not sure if we will ever add this to AIM/ICQ, but if we do, it will be different from the way AOL did it.

Q: You are probably sick of hearing the quesion…Is there any new info you can give on AIM for Mac?

A: (No I am not sick of hearing this question as I type from my MacBook Pro) 😉 In case you are not aware Open AIM has a full API available on Mac (Linux and Win Mobile as well). The Mac SDK contains a full Mac AIM client written by one of the engineers on my team, the only issue is that you have to compile it yourself via XCode. I am very confident that by the end of the year at the latest I will be able to share some news regarding a Mac Client.

Q: Why did you do aim 6.5 refresh instead of just going to aim 6.6 and also how come you skipped 6.2,3, and 4?

A: I wish I could say we engineers decide on version numbers for the client releases we do, but we do not. In the old days when I first started on AIM during AIM 2.5, we, the engineers, definitely tried to control the versioning based on features we added and bugs we fixed. So when we did bug fixes and minor features we would increment in tenths (AIM 3.0 to AIM 3.1). If we did a major release like when we moved to host based buddy lists we incremented by the whole number (AIM 3.5 to 4.0). In the case of Open AIM, my team chooses version numbers based on when we modify or add to the interfaces. For example when we release multiple versions of Open AIM 1.3 the differences are non-interface changes (mainly bug fixes). For the client, there is no exact reason why we skip version numbers, it may be related to business/marketing or technical reasons.

So that is the mailbag for tonight, I will get to more questions tomorrow where we will cover new features, GTalk, custom clients and the always popular why will my AIM MusicLink not work.