AOL Instant Messenger

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Template:Pp-move-vandalism {{#invoke:Infobox|infobox}}

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is an instant messaging and presence computer program which uses the proprietary OSCAR instant messaging protocol and the TOC protocol to allow registered users to communicate in real time.


AOL Instant Messenger was released by America Online (AOL) in May 1997. Stand-alone official AIM client software includes advertisements and is available for Microsoft Windows, Windows Mobile, Mac OS, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS.[1] The software, maintained by AOL, Inc., at one time had the largest share of the instant messaging market in North America, especially in the United States (with 52% of the total reported as of 2006).[2] This does not include other instant messaging software related to or developed by AOL, such as ICQ and iChat.


As of June 2011, one reported market share had collapsed to 0.73%.[3] However, this number only reflects installed IM applications, and not active users.


The standard protocol that AIM clients use to communicate is called Open System for CommunicAtion in Realtime (OSCAR). Most AOL-produced versions of AIM and popular third party AIM clients use this protocol. However, AOL also created a simpler protocol called TOC that lacks many of OSCAR's features but is sometimes used for clients that only require basic chat functionality. The TOC/TOC2 protocol specifications were made available by AOL, while OSCAR is a closed protocol that third parties have had to reverse-engineer.

In January 2008, AOL introduced experimental Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) support for AIM,[4] allowing AIM users to communicate using the standardized, open-source XMPP. However, in March 2008, this service was discontinued.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }} As of May 2011, AOL offers limited XMPP support.[5]Template:Dead link


For privacy regulations, AIM has strict age restrictions. AIM accounts are available only for children over the age of 13; younger children are not permitted access to AIM.[6]

Under the AIM Privacy Policy, AOL has no rights to read or monitor any private communications between users. The profile of the user has no privacy.[6]

If public content is accessed it can be used for online, print or even broadcast advertising etc. This is outlined in the policy and terms of service, "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". This allows anything one posts to be used without a separate request for permission.[6]

The issue of AIM's security has been called into question. AOL states that it has taken great steps to insure that personal information will not be accessed by unauthorized members, but that it cannot guarantee that that will not happen.[6]

AIM is different from other clients such as Yahoo! Messenger in that it does not require approval from one buddy to be added to another's buddy list. As a result, it is possible for users to keep other unsuspecting users on their buddy list to see when they are online, read their status and away messages, and read their profiles. In fact, there is a web API to display one's status and away message as a widget on one's webpage.[7] However, one can block another user from communicating and seeing one's status; but this does not prevent the user from creating a new account that is not blocked and therefore can still track the first user's status. A more complete privacy option is to select a menu option allowing communication only with those on one's buddy list; this causes blocking (thus appear offline to) all users who are not on one's buddy list.

AOL recently teamed up with Facebook, allowing users to login to AIM using their Facebook account. However, many privacy advocates claim that the convenience comes at a high price. In order to sign up for AIM Express, the more lightweight, web-based version, users must accept all of their account access stipulations. These include access to the user's photos, videos, messages in their inbox (including private), custom friends list, friend requests, and more. Users must also allow AIM to access their account when they are offline, as well as post messages and videos on their wall. If they refuse to accept all the terms, the sign-up process stops.

The new release logs all conversations, and there is no opt-out.[8]

Chat robots

AOL and various other companies supply robots on AIM that can receive messages and send a response based on the bot's purpose. For example, bots can help with studying, like StudyBuddy. Some are made to relate to children and teenagers, like Spleak, others give advice, and others are for more general purposes, such as SmarterChild. The more useful chat bots have features like the ability to play games, get sport scores, weather forecasts or financial stock information. Users were able to talk to automated chat bots that could respond to natural human language. They were primarily put into place as a marketing strategy and for unique advertising options. It was used by advertisers to market products or build better consumer relations.[9]

Before the inclusions of such bots, the other bots DoorManBot and AIMOffline provided features that are provided today by AOL for those who needed it. ZolaOnAOL and ZoeOnAOL were short lived bots that ultimately retired their features in favor of SmarterChild. As of November 18, 2008, the SmarterChild bot for AIM was retired and is no longer offering any services.Template:Cn

URI scheme

AOL Instant Messenger's installation process automatically installs an extra URI scheme ("protocol") handler into some web browsers, so URIs beginning "aim:" can open a new AIM window with specified parameters. This is similar in function to the mailto: URI scheme, which creates a new e-mail message using the system's default mail program. For instance, a web page might include a link like the following in its HTML source to open a window for sending a message to the AIM user notarealuser:

<a href="aim:goim?screenname=notarealuser">Send Message</a>

To specify a message body, the message parameter is used, so the link location might look like this:


To specify an away message, the message parameter is used, so the link location might look like this:


When placing this inside a URL link, an AIM user could click on the URL link and the away message "Hello, my name is Bill" would instantly become their away message.

To add a buddy, the addbuddy message is used, with the screenname parameter


This type of link is commonly found on forum profiles, to easily add contacts


{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Refimprove |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Message box|ambox}} }} AIM is knownTemplate:Where for security weaknesses that have enabled exploits to be created that use third-party software to perform malicious acts on users' computers.[10] Although most are relatively harmless, such as being kicked off the AIM service, others perform potentially dangerous actions such as sending viruses. Some of these exploits rely on social engineering to spread by automatically sending instant messages that contain a URL accompanied by text suggesting the receiving user click on it, an action which leads to infection. These messages can easily be mistaken as coming from a friend and contain a link to a web address that installs software on the user's computer to restart the cycle.

Users have also reported sudden additions of toolbars and advertisements from third parties in the newer version of AIM. Multiple complaints about the lack of control of third party involvement have caused many users to stop using the service.[10] AIM has also been complained about their internet connection quality. Connection would be either inconsistent or working properly only of a few months before deteriorating severely. AIM has also been considered a slower program than most available instant messaging services. Mostly in relation to the lack of proper internet connection, service between connections has been hard to arrive quickly, especially involving sent images and videos. The interface has also been criticized as impractical and unorganized, make it user-unfriendly. Although people who have used AIM since its beginnings may have a much better grasp of how to use it, newer users would have a harder time grasping the concept of the interface.

Extra features

Versions available

There are five ways to access AOL instant messaging service, divided into three categories. The first category is strictly from using an internet browser. By clicking '' on AIM's main website, it directs the user to a page, where they can access and use AIM. The Second category would be operating systems on computers. The AOL service allows AIM for Windows and AIM for Mac. This allows users to use the service on any type of operating service. The last category is mobile devices. Currently, the application is available for two mobile operating systems, iOS and Android.[11]

iPhone application

On March 6, 2008, during Apple Inc.'s iPhone SDK event, AOL announced that they would be releasing an AIM application for iPhone and iPod Touch users. The application is available for free from the App Store, but the company also provides a paid version, which displays no advertisements. Both are available from the App Store. The AIM client for iPhone and iPod Touch supports standard AIM accounts as well as MobileMe accounts. There is also an express version of AIM accessible through the Safari browser on the iPhone and iPod Touch.[12]

In 2011 AOL launched a massive overhaul of their Instant Messaging service. Included in the update was a brand new iOS application for iPhone and iPod Touch which incorporated all the latest features. A brand new icon was used for the application, featuring the new cursive logo for AIM. The user-interface was entirely redone for the features including: a new buddy list, group messaging, in-line photos and videos, as well as improved file-sharing.[13]

Currently the application is in version 5.0.5, which was updated as of March 2012. In the latest iteration, it supports more social stream features, much like Facebook and Twitter, as well as the ability to send voice messages up to 60 seconds long.[14]

iPad application

On April 3, 2010 Apple released the first generation iPad. Along with this newly released device AOL released the AIM application for iPad. It was built entirely from scratch for the new version iOS with a specialized user-interface for the device. It supports geo location, Facebook status updates and chat, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare and many social networking platforms.[15]

AIM Express

AIM Express runs in a pop-up browser window. It is intended for use by people who are unwilling or unable to install a standalone application or those at computers that lack the AIM application. AIM Express supports many of the standard features included in the stand-alone client, but does not provide advanced features like file transfer, audio chat, video conferencing, or buddy info. It is implemented in Adobe Flash.[16] It is an upgrade to the prior AOL Quick Buddy, which was later available for older systems that cannot handle Express before being discontinued. Express and Quick Buddy are similar to MSN Web Messenger and Yahoo! Web Messenger.

AIM Pages

{{#invoke:main|main}} AIM Pages was released in May 2006, allowing the 63 million AIM users to create an online, dynamic profile. The buddy list serves as the basis for the AIM Page social networking service. An AIM Page is built using modules following the ModuleT microformat. AIM Pages was discontinued in late 2007.

AIM for Mac

AOL released an all-new AIM for the Macintosh on September 29, 2008 and the final build on December 15, 2008. The redesigned AIM for Mac is a full universal binary Cocoa API application that supports both Tiger and Leopard – Mac OS X 10.4.8 (and above) or Mac OS X 10.5.3 (and above). On October 1, 2009, AOL released AIM 2.0 for Mac.

AIM for Phoneline

AIM Phoneline was a Voice over IP PC-PC, PC-Phone and Phone-to-PC service[17] provided via the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) application. It was also known to work with Apple's iChat Client.

On May 16, 2006 AOL will launch a new service for AIM. AIM Phoneline provides users the ability to have a few local number, this allows AIM users to receive incoming calls for free.[18] The service allows users to make calls to landlines and moblie devices through the use of a computer. The service however is only free for receiving and AOL will charge a user of 14.95 a month for unlimited calling plan.[19]

In order to use AIM Phoneline users must download the latest version of an AIM Triton software (the free one), and must have a good set of headphones that has a microphone attached. It may take several days after a user signs up before it starts working.[19]

The service has provided users with many interfaces such as Auto Action APIs, Ringback Tone APIs and Screen Name Services API that make the AIM Phoneline a great service.[20]

On January 13, 2009, the service was officially closed. The closing of the free service has caused the number associated with the service to be disabled and not transferrable for a different service.[21]

AIM Call Out

AIM Call Out is a discontinued Voice over IP PC-PC, PC-Phone and Phone-to-PC service provided by AOL via its AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) application that replaced the defunct AIM Phoneline service in November 2007.[22] It did not depend on the AIM client and could be used with only an AIM screenname via the WebConnect feature or a dedicated SIP device. The AIM Call Out service was shut down on March 25, 2009.[23]

AIM real-time IM

A new feature has been added to AIM. The real-time IM allows users to have a better experience. This feature is available for AIM 7 and it allows a user to see what the other is typing as it is being done. This feature was developed and built with assistance from Trace Research and Development Centre at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Gallaudet University. The application provides visually impaired users the ability to convert messages from text(words) to speech.[24]

For the application to work users must have AIM 6.8 or higher. This feature is not compatible with older versions of AIM software, AIM for Mac or iChat. Real Time IM will connect directly to a users PC and their partners PCs as well. This is a direct IM connection. For one's safety it is important to only accept connections from people you know.[24]


External links

Template:Instant messaging Template:AOL Inc.