AOL Instant Messenger
AOL Instant Messenger is an instant messaging
Instant messaging
Instant Messaging is a form of real-time direct text-based chatting communication in push mode between two or more people using personal computers or other devices, along with shared clients. The user's text is conveyed over a network, such as the Internet...

 and presence
Presence information
In computer and telecommunications networks, presence information is a status indicator that conveys ability and willingness of a potential communication partner—for example a user--to communicate...

 computer program
Computer program
A computer program is a sequence of instructions written to perform a specified task with a computer. A computer requires programs to function, typically executing the program's instructions in a central processor. The program has an executable form that the computer can use directly to execute...

 which uses the proprietary
Proprietary software
Proprietary software is computer software licensed under exclusive legal right of the copyright holder. The licensee is given the right to use the software under certain conditions, while restricted from other uses, such as modification, further distribution, or reverse engineering.Complementary...

 OSCAR instant messaging protocol
OSCAR protocol
OSCAR or Open System for CommunicAtion in Realtime is AOL's flagship instant messaging and presence information protocol. Currently, OSCAR is in use for AOL's two main instant messaging systems: ICQ and AIM....

 and the TOC protocol
TOC protocol
The TOC protocol, or Talk to OSCAR protocol, was a protocol used by some third-party AOL Instant Messenger clients and several clients that AOL produced itself...

 to allow registered users to communicate in real time. It was released by AOL
AOL Inc. is an American global Internet services and media company. AOL is headquartered at 770 Broadway in New York. Founded in 1983 as Control Video Corporation, it has franchised its services to companies in several nations around the world or set up international versions of its services...

 in May 1997. Stand-alone official AIM client software includes advertisements and is available for Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

, Windows Mobile
Windows Mobile
Windows Mobile is a mobile operating system developed by Microsoft that was used in smartphones and Pocket PCs, but by 2011 was rarely supplied on new phones. The last version is "Windows Mobile 6.5.5"; it is superseded by Windows Phone, which does not run Windows Mobile software.Windows Mobile is...

, Mac OS
Mac OS
Mac OS is a series of graphical user interface-based operating systems developed by Apple Inc. for their Macintosh line of computer systems. The Macintosh user experience is credited with popularizing the graphical user interface...

, Mac OS X
Mac OS X
Mac OS X is a series of Unix-based operating systems and graphical user interfaces developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc. Since 2002, has been included with all new Macintosh computer systems...

, Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS
BlackBerry OS
BlackBerry OS is a proprietary mobile operating system, developed by Research In Motion for its BlackBerry line of smartphone handheld devices...

. 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
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 (with 52% of the total reported as of 2006). This does not include other instant messaging software related to or developed by AOL, such as ICQ
ICQ is an instant messaging computer program, which was first developed and popularized by the Israeli company Mirabilis, then bought by America Online, and since April 2010 owned by Group. The name ICQ is a homophone for the phrase "I seek you"...

 and iChat
iChat is an instant messaging software application developed by Apple Inc. exclusively for its Mac OS X operating system. It has audio, video and screen-sharing capabilities as well as text messaging...

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


In September 1995, the "Buddy List" precursor to AIM was launched internally to AOL employees. In March 1996, the Buddy List was opened up to AOL subscribers. The standalone AIM became available to non-subscribers in 1997. The release of AIM came over a decade after AOL's prior QuantumLink incarnation had offered "On-Line Messages" (OLMs) to its subscribers.

Since version 2.0, AIM has included person-to-person instant messaging, chatroom messaging, and the ability to share files peer-to-peer
Peer-to-peer computing or networking is a distributed application architecture that partitions tasks or workloads among peers. Peers are equally privileged, equipotent participants in the application...

 with buddies. Version 4.3 introduced storing user contact lists on AOL servers and allowed for a maximum of 200 buddies to be stored. Also, in the 4.x versions, the AIM client for Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

 added the ability to play games against one another using the WildTangent
WildTangent is a Redmond, Washington based game network, privately held in the United States that powers game services for several PC manufacturers including HP, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Samsung, Acer and Lenovo...

 engine. The first version released with WildTangent did not warn the user that it was going to be installed. Newer versions do, because many spyware scanners flag WildTangent software as spyware.

The successor to AIM version 5.9 was originally named AIM Triton. Compared with version 5.9, Triton's programming code was rewritten
Rewrite (programming)
A rewrite in computer programming is the act or result of re-implementing a large portion of existing functionality without re-use of its source code. When the rewrite is not using existing code at all, it is common to speak of a rewrite from scratch...

 and featured a brand new UI engine called Boxely. The first beta version of Triton (0.1.12) supported only Windows XP
Windows XP
Windows XP is an operating system produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops and media centers. First released to computer manufacturers on August 24, 2001, it is the second most popular version of Windows, based on installed user base...

 when released. For the first time in developing 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.

In September 2006, Triton was renamed to AIM 6 and a new beta version was made available. This version slightly changed the UI. The final stable version of AIM 6.0 was released on December 15. New features included connection to AIM Pages
AIM Pages
AIM Pages is a free service offered by AOL to anyone that has an AIM Screenname and is at least 13 years of age. It allows the user to create his or her own web page and share it with friends....

, additional customization, and compatibility with address book
Address book
An address book or a name and address book is a book or a database used for storing entries called contacts. Each contact entry usually consists of a few standard fields...

 programs and sites through a "Universal Address Book" powered by Plaxo
Plaxo is an online address book and social networking service originally founded by Sean Parker, Minh Nguyen and two Stanford engineering students, Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring...

. Further, 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 prior 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 opening 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 in displaying Linked Screen Names, several bug fixes, and improved Windows Vista
Windows Vista
Windows Vista is an operating system released in several variations developed by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs, and media center PCs...


Version supports status messages (similar to away messages), and has improved cell phone integration.

In version 7.4 for Windows and version 2.1 for Mac OS, AIM added support for Facebook
Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. , Facebook has more than 800 million active users. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as...

, allowing users to login using their Facebook ID and chat with their Facebook friends. Version 7.x no longer supports Windows 2003 Server (which is newer than XP).


The standard protocol that AIM clients use to communicate is called Open System for CommunicAtion in Realtime
OSCAR protocol
OSCAR or Open System for CommunicAtion in Realtime is AOL's flagship instant messaging and presence information protocol. Currently, OSCAR is in use for AOL's two main instant messaging systems: ICQ and AIM....

 (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
TOC2 protocol
The TOC2 protocol is an updated version of the TOC protocol, or "Talk to OSCAR" protocol. Its existence was never documented by AOL and it is only used in a few AOL Instant Messenger clients. Some clients are beginning to offer plugins for TOC2 in light of AOL's recent shutdown of their TOC servers...

 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
Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol
Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol is an open-standard communications protocol for message-oriented middleware based on XML . The protocol was originally named Jabber, and was developed by the Jabber open-source community in 1999 for near-real-time, extensible instant messaging , presence...

 (XMPP) support for AIM, allowing AIM users to communicate using the standardized, open-source XMPP. However, in March 2008, this service was discontinued. As of May 2011, AOL offers limited XMPP support.


AIM and AOL use several terms for elements of their instant messaging that 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 the user 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
    User (computing)
    A user is an agent, either a human agent or software agent, who uses a computer or network service. A user often has a user account and is identified by a username , screen name , nickname , or handle, which is derived from the identical Citizen's Band radio term.Users are...

    : Term for user name with AOL origins. These are available for free with registration at the AIM website, and range from 3 to 16 characters long.
  • Rate limiting: This 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 about 10 seconds, though they may still receive messages during this time.
  • 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. For a while, warnings had not been disabled serverside
    Server (computing)
    In the context of client-server architecture, a server is a computer program running to serve the requests of other programs, the "clients". Thus, the "server" performs some computational task on behalf of "clients"...

    , meaning that older AIM clients, third-party clients, or user-written add-ons may still allow users to bypass "soft" removal of warning abilities.
  • 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
    Harassment covers a wide range of behaviors of an offensive nature. It is commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset, and it is characteristically repetitive. In the legal sense, it is intentional behaviour which is found threatening or disturbing...

     or spamming
    Spam (electronic)
    Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately...

     and is also a secure way to chat.
  • Icon: Also termed an avatar
    Avatar (computing)
    In computing, an avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user's alter ego or character. It may take either a three-dimensional form, as in games or virtual worlds, or a two-dimensional form as an icon in Internet forums and other online communities. It can also refer to a text...

    , a small, personalized picture that a user can set up to appear whenever they message another user.


AIM is different from other clients such as Yahoo! Messenger
Yahoo! Messenger
Yahoo! Messenger is an advertisement-supported instant messaging client and associated protocol provided by Yahoo!...

 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, away message as a widget on one's webpage. However, one can block another user from communicating and seeing one's status; though 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 not on one's buddy list.

AOL recently teamed up with Facebook, allowing you to login to AIM using your 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, you must accept all of their account access stipulations. These include access to your photos, videos, messages in your inbox (including private}, custom friends list, friend requests, and more. You must also allow AIM to access your account when you're offline, as well as post messages and videos on your wall. If you refuse to accept all the terms, the sign-up process stops.


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
Spleak is an IM platform where users could publish and rate content. It exists in the form of six bots covering as many subject areas: CelebSpleak, SportSpleak, VoteSpleak, TVSpleak, GameSpleak, and StyleSpleak.-Overview:...

, others give advice, and others are for more general purposes, such as SmarterChild
SmarterChild was a chatterbot available on AOL Instant Messenger and Windows Live Messenger networks.-History:SmarterChild was an interactive agent or bot developed by ActiveBuddy. It was distributed across instant messaging and SMS networks...

. Before the inclusions of such bots, the bots DoorManBot and AIMOffline provided features that are provided today by AOL for those who needed it. ZolaOnAOL
ZolaOnAOL was a chatterbot in AOL Instant Messenger, a program made by AOL replacing a preceding bot of the same nature named "ZoeOnAOL", to send instant messages...

 and ZoeOnAOL
ZoeOnAOL was a chatterbot much like ZolaOnAOL available on AIM. They had the same personality just a different name. She was released in December 2002 and retired in July 2003.-Retirement:...

 were short lived bots that ultimately retired their features in favor of SmarterChild.

URI scheme

AOL Instant Messenger's installation process automatically installs an extra URI scheme
URI scheme
In the field of computer networking, a URI scheme is the top level of the Uniform Resource Identifier naming structure. All URIs and absolute URI references are formed with a scheme name, followed by a colon character , and the remainder of the URI called the scheme-specific part...

 ("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


AIM is known for security weaknesses that have enabled exploits
Exploit (computer security)
An exploit is a piece of software, a chunk of data, or sequence of commands that takes advantage of a bug, glitch or vulnerability in order to cause unintended or unanticipated behavior to occur on computer software, hardware, or something electronic...

 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 address
IP address
An Internet Protocol address is a numerical label assigned to each device participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address serves two principal functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing...

es and sending viruses
Computer virus
A computer virus is a computer program that can replicate itself and spread from one computer to another. The term "virus" is also commonly but erroneously used to refer to other types of malware, including but not limited to adware and spyware programs that do not have the reproductive ability...

. Some of these exploits rely on social engineering to spread by automatically sending instant messages that contain a URL
Uniform Resource Locator
In computing, a uniform resource locator or universal resource locator is a specific character string that constitutes a reference to an Internet resource....

 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.

iPhone application

On March 6, 2008, during Apple Inc.'s iPhone SDK
IPhone SDK
The iOS SDK is a software development kit developed by Apple Inc. and released in February 2008 to develop native applications for iOS.-History:...

 event, AOL announced that they would be releasing an AIM application for iPhone
The iPhone is a line of Internet and multimedia-enabled smartphones marketed by Apple Inc. The first iPhone was unveiled by Steve Jobs, then CEO of Apple, on January 9, 2007, and released on June 29, 2007...

 and iPod Touch
IPod Touch
The iPod Touch is a portable media player, personal digital assistant, handheld game console, and Wi-Fi mobile device designed and marketed by Apple Inc. The iPod Touch adds the multi-touch graphical user interface to the iPod line...

 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
MobileMe was a subscription-based collection of online services and software offered by Apple Inc. Originally launched on January 5, 2000, as iTools, a free collection of Internet-based services for users of Mac OS 9, Apple relaunched it as .Mac on July 17, 2002, when it became a paid subscription...

 accounts. There is also an express version of AIM accessible through the Safari
Safari (web browser)
Safari is a web browser developed by Apple Inc. and included with the Mac OS X and iOS operating systems. First released as a public beta on January 7, 2003 on the company's Mac OS X operating system, it became Apple's default browser beginning with Mac OS X v10.3 "Panther". Safari is also the...

 browser on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

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
Adobe Flash
Adobe Flash is a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to web pages. Flash is frequently used for advertisements, games and flash animations for broadcast...

. 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

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
Social network
A social network is a social structure made up of individuals called "nodes", which are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.Social...

. An AIM Page is built using modules following the ModuleT microformat
A microformat is a web-based approach to semantic markup which seeks to re-use existing HTML/XHTML tags to convey metadata and other attributes in web pages and other contexts that support HTML, such as RSS...

. AIM Pages was discontinued in late 2007.

AIM for Mac

AOL released an all-new AIM for the Macintosh
The Macintosh , or Mac, is a series of several lines of personal computers designed, developed, and marketed by Apple Inc. The first Macintosh was introduced by Apple's then-chairman Steve Jobs on January 24, 1984; it was the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a...

 on September 29, 2008 and the final build on December 15, 2008. The redesigned AIM for Mac is a full universal binary
Universal binary
A universal binary is, in Apple parlance, an executable file or application bundle that runs natively on either PowerPC or Intel-manufactured IA-32 or Intel 64-based Macintosh computers; it is an implementation of the concept more generally known as a fat binary.With the release of Mac OS X Snow...

 Cocoa API application that supports both Tiger and Leopard – Mac OS X
Mac OS X
Mac OS X is a series of Unix-based operating systems and graphical user interfaces developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc. Since 2002, has been included with all new Macintosh computer systems...

 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 Phoneline

AIM Phoneline was a Voice over IP
Voice over IP
Voice over Internet Protocol is a family of technologies, methodologies, communication protocols, and transmission techniques for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol networks, such as the Internet...

 PC-PC, PC-Phone and Phone-to-PC service provided via the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) application. It was also known to work with Apple's iChat Client. The service was officially closed to its customers on January 13, 2009.

AIM Call Out

AIM Call Out is a discontinued Voice over IP
Voice over IP
Voice over Internet Protocol is a family of technologies, methodologies, communication protocols, and transmission techniques for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol networks, such as the Internet...

 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. 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.

AIM Real-Time IM

Since AIM 6.8, AOL has included a real-time text
Real-time text
Real-time text is streaming text that is continuously transmitted as it is typed or otherwise composed. It allows conversational use of text, where people interactively converse with each other.-Use over instant messaging:...

 feature that allows typing to be streamed in real-time to the other recipient, so that both ends of the conversation can watch each other type, via the Ctrl+R keypress or the "Real-Time IM" menu option. This feature is a popular assistive technology
Assistive technology
Assistive technology or adaptive technology is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them...

 feature for the deaf.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.