Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Got Gaim?

America Online's AOL Instant Messaging ("AIM") is among the most popular instant messaging client-server solutions that many humans use globally. Recently, they had changed their privacy policy:

"acaben writes "AOL has posted new terms of service for AIM, that include the right for AOL to use anything and everything you send through AIM in any way they see fit, without informing you. A sample passage: '...by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy.'""
full article: Slashdot.org

Luckily for us, and thanks to blog or news websites, people can turn into instant activists and get a result:

"gpmac writes "AOL has responded to the recent slashdot attention. America Online Inc. plans to make three small but significant modifications to the terms of service for its AIM instant messaging product to head off a firestorm of privacy-related criticisms. The tweaks to the terms of service will be made in the section titled "Content You Post" and will explicitly exclude user-to-user chat sessions from the privacy rights an AIM user gives up to AOL.""
full article: Slashdot.org

But if you're like me, you didn't sigh in relief at the second post, but noticed the corporate maneuver and understand that AOL's goal is to save all your messages and that is enough to look elsewhere. I wouldn't reccomend Yahoo! messenger, as Yahoo has no respect for their user's privacy rights either.

The next best solution? MSN messenger! haha.

Check out Jabber

What is Jabber?
Jabber is best known as "the Linux of instant messaging" -- an open, secure, ad-free alternative to consumer IM services like AIM, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo (see the IM quickstart). Under the hood, Jabber is a set of streaming XML protocols and technologies that enable any two entities on the Internet to exchange messages, presence, and other structured information in close to real time. Jabber technologies offer several key advantages:
What can I do with Jabber?
So far you can use Jabber to talk with other people who use Jabber and participate in Jabber chat rooms. You can also chat with users of some other IM services (see below). Depending on which Jabber client you use, you can also transfer files, receive headlines, and so on.
Can I use Jabber to talk with people who use other IM services?
You certainly can! Communication with legacy IM services is made possible by what we call "gateways". Jabber developers have created software for gateways to AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), ICQ, MSN Instant Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger. However, not every Jabber server runs the gateway. See the Jabber User Guide for help setting up the gateways in your Jabber client.

Although Jabber does interface with 'legacy systems,' this interface means sending messages to the foreign servers. But, to avoid the privacy issues stated above, you need to avoid their servers. Therefore, I would reccomend leaving your friends in the dust while lobbying them to switch to Jabber. If they're worth talking to, they'll probably agree.

Got Gaim?
The only problem - your AOL-AIM client can't connect to Jabber. AIM only connects to oscar, AOL's centralized messaging server. So you need to establish a client-server platform for your new Jabber communicae. This is all described at Jabber.org. GAIM is a fully functional client which talks to all the popular flavors - AIM, Yahoo, MSM, Jabber, IRC, etc - similar to Trillian, but this one is open source and free. Here's a quick setup that I did on WindowsXP:

1. Download the client: gaim
2. Create a new account in GAIM that is of a Jabber protocol.
While supplying information for your new account (screen name, passwd, etc) be sure to click 'Advanced' and provide which jabber server you want to speak to. When adding buddies, you can specify their server, so in a sense all the servers can talk to each other. So, don't worry about where your buddies are, just worry about which is fastest for you.
3. Click to register your new jabber account on the jabber server you picked
4. Add buddies ( screenname@jabberserver.domain )

And you've successfully shed the closed-source proprietary information aggregating anti-privacy anti-people instant messaging corporate servers. Congrats!