A Lite Story

A few people have been asking me about AIM Lite as it has been over a year since we last did a release.  I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up some stuff with AIM Lite.  The idea of a light-weight AIM client pre-dates my 9+ years at AOL, by a few months, but it really came to surface in the winter of 2006 during the AIM Triton project.

When we created AIM Lite it was done as an exercise to improve the architecture that was used to connect Open AIM to the user interface elements.  Things like displaying IMs, rendering 1000 buddies in a Buddy List, and composing IMs were improved in AIM Lite.  Now much of that knowledge resides in the AIM client, and has been available to everyone since last year’s AIM 6.5 release.

AIM Lite also gave birth to a feature everyone benefited from in June of 2008.  AIM Lite featured a type of AIM Plugin called AIM Widgets (AWI).  These AIM Widgets led us to developing AIM Modules, which are a super set of AWIs in functionality and features.

I can’t say we will never touch the AIM Lite code base again, and for those who still use AIM Lite, we have no plans to decommission it either.  Hopefully this clears up any misconceptions behind AIM Lite, and if you are looking for a simple AIM experience, check out the AIM Express client.  The best part is that there is no download for the client, as long as Flash 9 is installed.

AIM for Windows Mobile

Late last week we posted a new AIM beta for the Windows Mobile platform.  The client is built using the Web AIM APIs and provides a new look for an AIM client on a mobile device.  All of the core AIM features are part of this application, including status, viewing Buddy Icons, and Buddy List management.

Please note: This build of AIM Mobile does not have an Update Mechanism available. This means you will have to return to beta.aol.com and check if a new build of AIM for Windows Mobile is available. The Update Mechanism will be included in a future build.

Supported Devices: AIM for Windows Mobile supports devices with the Windows Mobile 5 and Windows Mobile 6 operating systems. Some examples are:

  • T-Mobile Wing
  • Sprint Mogul and HTC Touch
  • AT&T Blackjack II, Tilt
  • Sprint Samsung ACE
  • Motorola Q
  • Verizon Wireless 6800
  • Most Palm Treo’s

TwitterMan updated

I have a new version of TwitterMan that I posted to the AIM Gallery today. This version includes additional features like viewing your friends timeline and being notified of when your friends have posted a new status message. The flyout showing your friends timeline contains your friends icon, link back to your friends feed, status message, and of course the time the tweet was sent.

Download TwitterMan 0.5 here.

If you are new to Twitter, the first friend to add is the MarsPhoenix lander.  Its fun since the lander is tweeting in the first person.

Making some AIM Money

When we launched Open AIM 2.0 in March this year we shared that we were going to be rewarding developers for building on the AIM network with advertising revenue. The ad revenue sharing program is called AIM Money and it is launching today. Signing up is free and incorporating a little bit of code will show an ad from the web’s most powerful ad network, AOL’s Platform-A.

Getting started is as easy 3 steps.

1. Register (you just need to be logged into the web page with an AIM screen name, same as getting a developer key)

2. Get the AIM Ad Money code and embed it into the app or website

3. Get Paid.

AIM Money is about rewarding developers for their hard work building on top of our platform, and by leveraging the same ad assets that we use at AOL gives developers a great path to make money!

Check out AIM Money here.

Taking AIM with AMO

In the next evolution of Open AIM client extensions, today we are releasing as part of the AIM 6.8 client a new type of AIM plugin called AIM Modules. These AIM Modules, known as AMOs are client extensions written using HTML and JavaScript. These plugins have full access to the Open AIM APIs that so many of you use today, but it also provides hooks into the AIM client itself, so developers can now get specific information about the Buddy List window (location, height and width of the window) and other AIM application properties.

We have added lots of documentation and samples so you can get started building AMOs. AMOs are simply zipped up packages with an ‘AMO’ extension, instead of ‘ZIP’, so rename the package to ‘ZIP’ and unpack the file to view the code.

We have also helped out developers by adding a secure way of storing preferences via the Open AIM APIs. Developers who need users to enter in their credentials for their plugin can now store those credentials or other data securely.

AMOs are downloadable from the AIM Gallery and require AIM 6.8 or greater.

Refreshed Open AIM Forums

We refreshed all of the developer network web sites this week. This upgrade included a refresh of the Open AIM forums. After feedback both from my team as well as developers on the network, we needed to make some tweaks to give all of us a better experience. With the changes in place, the forums are a great place to get the latest help and info on building on top of the Open AIM platform.

Check out the forums here.

Witness the Core

Debugging AIM plugins is always a challenge. If you are writing a plugin for Windows AIM clients that are C++, C# or VB or what we call native plugins, you simply attach the Visual Studio.net debugger (ctrl-alt-p) is the shortcut key combo, to AIM 6.8. Place your breakpoints in your project and you are all set to debug. For developers writing simple plugins using javascript like plugins via AIM Widget development, debugging requires breaking into JScript.

To be honest, this sucks if the all you are looking to do is peak into the way the Open AIM APIs work and maybe see why your plugin is not getting events. CoreWitness is just the plugin to make your life suck less. It gives you the ability to trigger specific events or dumps properties of objects in Open AIM.

The plugin was written in C++ and has the nice feature of self checking for updates, so as we add new objects or events to the Open AIM API, you will be the first to know. As I say, sometimes the best plugins are the utilities that let you see how we are doing things on AIM.

Download CoreWitness here.

Get AIM Stats and be an imFreaq

We have posted a couple more plugins today to the AIM Gallery that are fun little utilities. The first is a plugin that was written by Gus, called IM Freaqs, that will show you the buddies that you interact with the most. You can easily launch an IM Window from this plugin by clicking on the screen name. IM Freaqs will show you the frequency score, online state (away, online, offline, etc) and buddy icon of each user. We are using the Open AIM API to get a user’s frequency score via AccUserProp_Frequency. This is the same API that was used to create the Google Desktop Gadget.

The other plugin called AIM Stats allows you to view a few different stat categories. You can now view how close you are to the maximum buddy list size as well as group maximum. AIM Stat will also show you how many IMs you have sent and received during the session.

Both plugins require AIM 6.8 Beta 3. You can download the AIM 6.8 Beta client here.

Download IM Freaqs here.

Download AIM Stats here.

Open AIM Developer Contest Results

When we launched Open AIM 2.0 in March we announced a contest being run through TopCoder that was part of the launch where AIM gave away $100,000 in prizes, and some t-shirts along the way. We saw dozens of really top notch submissions and judging them was no easy task.

Last week at the Top Coder Open in Las Vegas we announced the winners, the top 9 got to split the $10,000 each while 20 runners up got $500 each. Winning submissions ranged from whiteboarding plugins to an IM translation tool to a viral video sharing web site via web AIM APIs.

Here is the winners list:

  • IM Remote – Screen to screen desktop sharing over AIM.
  • IM Loud: This plugin reads IMs out loud to the user.
  • IM Whiteboard: Use AIM as a whiteboard and simultaneously draw with buddies.
  • LinkPreview: Thumbnail link previews when hovering over a link sent to you in chat.
  • Free2IM: Provides automatic, on-the-fly language translation back and forth over IM.
  • Infomess: Chat and share videos at the same time.
  • Share-A-Map: Share and collaboratively edit MapQuest maps. Giving someone directions will never be the same…
  • PopsChat: Bound to score points with TopCoder users, this plugin brings AIM chat and features to the TopCoder Arena (a chat and messaging area).
  • FeedReader: An RSS feedreader for AIM.

Congrats to all the winners. AOL is actively running a competition right now with TopCoder, this time for developers wanting to build video search applications via Truveo APIs.

AIM Express 7.0 Beta

Today we are launching a new version of AIM Express. This version, 7.0 is a beta and is built on top of the Open AIM WimAS3 library that we released back in March as part of the Open AIM 2.0 announcement. This Adobe Flash based application allows you to use AIM any where you have an internet connection and not have to worry about downloading the full AIM 6.8 client.

As we posted on the beta website…

Although this application will work with most versions of Adobe® Flash® 9, we highly recommend you upgrade to the most recent version of Flash, as older versions have a serious security flaw. The upgrade is available here.

Check out AIM Express 7.0 Beta here.

Let us know what you think of AIM Express 7.