Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
AOL Instant Messenger
The AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is an ad-supported instant messaging computer program, published by AOL, which uses the OSCAR instant messaging protocol and the TOC protocol. The most recent software version is AIM 5.9, released in September of 2004. AOL has described this technology as a means of "immediate cross-Internet communication". 
AIM allows users to communicate instantly through text to their "buddies" around the world, provided they have the AIM software. AIM has 195 million users (January 2003), with a large proportion using Internet slang. Advocates claim that it's easy to locate these users by visiting chatrooms that AOL has set up solely for those purposes. Chat topics range from heavy metal music to current affairs. AOL also has a member directory where AIM users can locate others online who share their interests. AIM is also noteworthy for its use of buddy icons and buddy profiles, allowing its users to construct a personal avatar and small personal information page.
Since version 2.0, AIM has included person-to-person text messaging, chatroom messaging, and the ability to share files peer-to-peer with your buddies. Somewhere in the 4.x series, the AIM client for Microsoft Windows added the ability to play games against one another. Recent (4.3 and later) versions of the client software store your contact information on AOL's servers, so you can talk to up to 200 of your buddies from any computer with Internet access. Stand-alone official AIM client software is available for free for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Mac OS X, Linux, Windows CE, and Palm OS. However, some users stay on the 3.0 series because the software license agreement for 4.0 and later clients includes a clause prohibiting the user from ever using a third-party client program.
There is also a version of AIM, called AIM Express, that is implemented in DHTML and runs in a web browser. It is intended for use by people who are unable or unwilling to install an executable client on their machine but still want to use instant messaging. 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, or video conferencing.
The standard protocol that AIM clients use to communicate is called OSCAR. AIM Express uses another protocol called TOC. TOC has also been made available to the public, in an attempt to throw a bone to third-party client developers and lure them away from OSCAR. This scheme has not been entirely successful. AOL has continually changed the details of the OSCAR protocol to keep third-party clients from working properly. This has resulted in a cat-and-mouse game between AOL and the client developers.
Apple Computer's iChat AV software, released in June 2003 for Mac OS X, was the first AIM-compatible client to allow for audio and video conferencing over the AIM protocol. In February, 2004, AIM 5.5 was released, allowing Windows users to video conference with each other and with iChat users. However, AIM 5.5 does not allow the audio-only chats that are a feature of iChat AV.
AIM software is the first to use online video streaming advertisements, via the Eyewonder protocol.
Official sites and download locations
Online versions of AIM
- MyAIM plugin for AIM 4.8
- AIM 1/2
- TOSCARClient component for Delphi
- AIMFix - Remove AIM viruses
- Aim Ad Hack
- Adium (free) (Official site)
- BSFlite (free) (Official site)
- Gaim (free) (Official site)
- Kopete (free) (Official site)
- Miranda IM (free) (Official site)
- Odigo (free) (Official site)
- TerraIM (free, no install required) (Official site)
- Trillian (basic free, pro $25) (Official site)
Utility AIM Bots
AIM Bot Creation
Profile Tools and Extensions
- Away Box(Away message management)
- Remote Away(Control away messages away from your own computer)
- AIM Encrypt(Provides encryption for IMs)
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