AOL Instant Messenger

AOL Instant Messenger

Infobox Software
name = AOL Instant Messenger

caption = Screenshot of the AIM 6.5.x Sign-on window
author =
developer = AOL LLC.
released = May 1997
latest release version =
latest release date = release date and age|2008|08|07
latest preview version =
latest preview date = release date and age|2008|08|14
programming language =
operating system = Windows (older versions for Mac and Linux)
platform =
language =
status =
genre = Instant messaging client
license = Proprietary
website = []

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is a 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. It was released by AOL in May 1997. Stand-alone official AIM client software includes advertisements and is available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Mac OS X, and Linux. The software, maintained by AOL, LLC, has a large share of the instant messaging market, especially in the United States (with 52% of the total reported as of 2006). [ [ IM Market Share - BigBlueBall Forums ] ]


In 1994 AOL Employee, Barry Appelman, hired programmer Chet Mohr and for five months they worked together building a prototype system that allowed AOL subscribers to have an early form of the buddy list and instant messenger. [ The Wall Street Journal ] ]

In 1995 AIM was launched internally to AOL employees. It was initially dubbed "the stalker feature" since many employees were uncomfortable having their co-workers know when they were online. AOL decided to make AIM available to its subscribers in May 1997.

Since version 2.0, AIM has included person-to-person instant messaging, chatroom messaging, and the ability to share files Peer-to-peer with one's buddies. Version 4.3 introduced the storing of one's contact list on AOL's servers and allowed for a maximum of 200 buddies to be stored. In addition, somewhere in the 4.x versions, the AIM client for Microsoft Windows added the ability to play games against one another using the Wild Tangent engine. The first version released with WildTangent did not warn the user that it was going to be installed. Newer versions do, due to the fact that many spyware scanners flag the WildTangent software as spyware. [ [,1759,1601598,00.asp Spyware or Slyware?] ]

AIM version 5.5 allowed Windows users to video conference with each other and with users of Apple, Inc.'s previously released iChat. Later updates led the version of AIM to version 5.9. Apple's iChat is now running on far more Macs than the older Aim 5.9.

The successor to AIM version 5.9 was originally named AIM Triton. Compared with version 5.9, Triton's programming code was rewritten and featured a brand new UI engine called Boxely. The first beta version of Triton (0.1.12) supported only Windows XP [ [ AIM Triton Beta Test ] ] upon its release. For the first time in the development of a new version of AIM, these preliminary versions were made publicly available on the AIM home page for any user to test and provide feedback.

On September 29, 2006, Triton was renamed to AIM 6.0 and a new beta version was made available. This version again changed the UI (albeit slightly). The final stable version of AIM 6.0 was released on December 15; new features included connection to AIM Pages, additional customization, and compatibility with address book programs and sites through a "Universal Address Book" powered by Plaxo. Additionally, the upgrade unified away messages and general user updates into RSS feeds and added the ability to send messages to offline users. Certain features that were missing from the previous version were also re-added, such as global font customization and a smaller cache usage, although the Get File function has yet to return . Also new in this release was the [ opening of AIM to developers] , which allowed anyone to create plug-ins or custom AIM clients for Windows, Macintosh, or Linux.

The next version, 6.1, added Buddy List docking, support for inserting images into Buddy Info, the ability to change the highlight colors of the UI, improvements to the displaying of Linked Screen Names, several bug fixes, and improved Windows Vista support.

Version supports status messages (similar to away messages), and has improved cell phone integration. [ [ AIM Download 6.5 - AIM ] ]


The standard protocol that AIM clients use to communicate is called 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 XMPP support for AIM, [cite web|url=|title=AOL adopting XMPP aka Jabber|date=2008-01-17|accessdate=2008-01-17|author=Florian Jensen] allowing AIM users to communicate using the standardized, open-source Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol. However, in March 2008 this service was discontinued.


AIM and AOL use several terms for elements of their instant messaging, which are different from other messengers. These include:
* Away message: A function of some instant messaging applications whereby a user may post a message that appears automatically to other users if they attempt to make contact when the user is unavailable. It is analogous to the voice message on an answering machine or voice mail system.
* Block: An AIM user may block a specific screen name on their buddy list. The blocked user cannot contact or see the status of the blocker. Both users in this case will always see each other as offline until the blocker "unblocks" them.
* Buddy Info: Information about the user that may be edited by the user. The user's buddies are able to view the information as a pop-up. There is a character limit that cannot be exceeded.
* Buddy List: The centerpiece of AIM, a list containing the status of up to 1000 buddies stored on an AIM server so you can access this list from any instance of AIM. The status of the buddies can be seen as 'online', 'away', 'idle', 'mobile', or 'offline'.
* Direct connection: AIM users can, instead of relaying messages through the AIM server, connect to each other's computers directly via this method and send various forms of media.
* Screen name: Term for user name with AOL origins. These are available for free with registration at the AIM website.
* Rate limiting, which prevents a user from sending too many messages in a short amount of time. Once a user is rate limited, they are unable to send messages for 20–30 seconds, but may still receive messages during this time period.
* Warning: If a user feels a received instant message is inappropriate, the recipient can "warn" the sender, which increases the sender's warning level. Warning levels reduce the rate at which users can send messages and can eventually cause a given screen name to be unable to sign-on for a period of time. Since it was often abused, the feature is no longer supported in AIM Triton or AIM 6, although warnings have not been disabled serverside, meaning that older AIM clients, third-party clients, or user-written add-ons may still allow users to bypass the "soft" removal of warning capabilities.
*An AIM Closed List, Allow Only, Buddies Only, or Privacy refers to the option on the AOL Instant Messenger client to allow only users on a user's buddy list to contact them. This is to prevent harassment or spamming and is also a secure way to chat.
*Icon: A small, personalized picture that a user can set up to appear whenever they message another user. Also referred to as an avatar.


The official versions of the AIM software are as follows:

"Note: This list may be incomplete."
* AIM 1.5.234, with an unknown release date (for various Linux distributions)
* AIM 1.5.286, with an unknown release date (for various Linux distributions)
* AIM 4.3, with an unknown release date (for Mac OS 8.6 and earlier)
* AIM 4.3.2229, released in 2000, included with Netscape Communicator.
* AIM 4.7.1333, released on November 21, 2004 (for Mac OS X and Mac OS 9)
* AIM 4.8.2790, released on November 26, 2001 (for Windows 95)
* AIM 5.0.2829, released in September 2002 (for Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP)
* AIM 5.1.3101, released in November 2002 (for Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP)
* AIM 5.2.3292, released in July 2003 (for Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP)
* AIM 5.5.3595, released in May 2004 (for Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP)
* AIM 5.9.3702, September 2004 (for Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP)
* AIM 5.9.3797, unknown release date (for Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP)
* AIM 5.9.3844, unknown release date (for Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP)
* AIM 5.9.3857, unknown release date (for Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP)
* AIM 5.9.3861, unknown release date (for Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP)
* AIM 5.9.6089, released on August 31, 2006 (for Windows 98/NT4/ME/2000/XP)
* AIM, released on November 15, 2006 (for Windows 2000/XP/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM, released on March 27, 2007 (for Windows 2000/XP/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM, released on May 3, 2007 (for Windows 2000/XP/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM, released on October 10, 2007 (for Windows 2000/XP/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM, released on October 26, 2007 (for Windows 2000/XP/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM, released on December 19, 2007 (for Windows 2000/XP/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM, released on January 9, 2008 (for Windows 2000/XP/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM, released on March 11, 2008 (for Windows 2000/XP/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM, released on April 2, 2008 (for Windows 2000/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM, released on June 10, 2008 (for Windows 2000/XP/Vista)
* AIM, released on June 17, 2008 (for Windows 2000/XP/Vista)
* AIM, released on June 24, 2008 (for Windows 2000/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM, released on August 7, 2008 (for Windows 2000/XP/Vista x64)
* AIM 1.0b1, released on September 29, 2008 (for Mac OS X)
* AIM Pro 1.3 build 260, released on November 1, 2006 (for Windows 2000/XP)
* AIM Pro 1.5 build 291, released on October 9, 2007 (for Windows 2000/XP/Vista)
* AIM Express, unknown release date, online version.
* AIM ET / LAIM / AIM Lite 0.31 Beta, released in 2006 (for Windows 2000/XP/Vista)
* AIM ET / LAIM / AIM Lite 0.31, released on December 11, 2006 (for Windows 2000/XP/Vista)
* AIM ET / LAIM / AIM Lite 0.32, released on March 27, 2007 (for Windows 2000/XP/Vista)
* AIM ET / LAIM / AIM Lite 0.33, released on June 8, 2007 (for Windows 2000/XP/Vista)
* AIM ET / LAIM / AIM Lite 0.8.6, released on January 2, 2008 (for Mac OS X)


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. However, one can block another user from communicating and also enhance privacy by selecting a menu option allowing communication only with those on one's buddy list.


AOL and various other companies supply robots on AIM which 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. Prior to the inclusions of such bots, the bots DoorManBot and AIMOffline provided features that are provided today by AOL for those who needed it.

URI scheme

AOL Instant Messenger's installation process automatically installs an extra URI scheme ("protocol") handler into some web browsers, so that 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 that the link location might look like this: aim:goim?screenname=notarealuser&message=This+is+my+message

To specify an away message, the message parameter is used, so that the link location might look like this: aim:goaway?message=Hello,+my+name+is+BillWhen 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.


AIM is known for security weaknesses that have enabled exploits to be created that use third-party software to perform malicious acts on users' computers. Although most are relatively harmless, such as being kicked off the AIM service, others perform potentially dangerous actions such as harvesting IP Addresses and the sending of 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.

Bundled software

Viewpoint Media Player, a plugin used for displaying proprietary graphical content, is installed with the AIM client software and sends information about the user back to its developer.


iPhone Application

On March 6, 2008, during Apple Inc.'s SDK event, AOL announced that they would be releasing an AIM application for iPhone and iPod touch users. As of July 10, 2008, this application is available through the App Store in iTunes and is free. [ [ Apple Releases iPhone SDK, Demos Spore, Instant Messaging - Mac Rumors ] ]

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 people that are at a computer that lacks 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 DHTML. It is an upgrade to the previous (but still available) AIM Quick Buddy (available for older systems that cannot handle Express). Express and Quick Buddy are similar to MSN Web Messenger and Yahoo! Web Messenger.

AIM Pages

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 network. An AIM Page is built using modules following the ModuleT microformat.

ee also

* AIM Call Out
* Comparison of instant messaging clients
* Comparison of IRC clients
* Comparison of instant messaging protocols


External links

* [ Official AIM site]
* [ AIM Express]
* [ AIM Lite]
* [ AIM Bots program]
* [ AIM Developer]
* [ AIM pages]

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