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AOL is full of it, say M$, Excite

Instant messaging security concerns are rubbish

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It's not often that The Reg finds itself in agreement with Microsoft and Excite but then the latest Nazi on the block, AOL, provides a handy meeting of minds.

This, of course, is all about instant messaging and the interesting blocking/hacking around it. AOL's Instant Messenger is a pretty darn good bit of kit and since it got in there first with a good product, has taken a good chunk of the market. Needless to say, others produced their own messaging systems but were unable to cut into the market without it working with AOL's version.

So they asked AOL if it wouldn't mind telling them how it worked exactly. AOL stroked its chin, flipped them the birdie and a war was born. Caught up in the horrible irony of being faced with a protectionist, market-controlling company that it didn't run, Microsoft naturally decided to hack into AOL and borrow the relevant code for interoperability. It wasn't successful.

AOL was unimpressed so it filed complaints and for good measure (remember we all pretend to love competition in the Internet world) came up with a PR ploy to deflect anti-trust accusations. You see, AOL is only too delighted to hand over its successful, profitable control of the market, it's just that it's worried about security. It loves us all so much and is so concerned that it's buggered if it'll give the code to anyone else until they can conclusively prove security will be tight. And guess who gets to decide if this standard is met? But in the meantime, the wise, genteel AOL will just keep working on a common standard while the others muck about.

What is incredible is that AOL's competitors can't see the wisdom behind its approach. They have the audacity (in a submitted white paper) to suggest that AOL is talking out of its proverbial. The validity of security/privacy claims has been a prominent focus - mostly because they are a load of consumer-friendly nonsense. Oh, and the fact that AOL has consistently failed to offer a timetable for this IM standard cropped up too.

AOL, of course, couldn't give a damn. It has the market and it will still have most of it when it's forced to open up. In the meantime, it leans back chuckling while the others get more and more uptight. Come to think of it, it is pretty funny. Anyway, it'll all be sorted out sooner or later. Then M$ will illegally attach the new IM system to Windows and Excite will base a TV campaign on it. ®

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Feds home in on AOL instant messaging

Related links

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IEFT)
The IETF's work on an IM standard
Federal Communications Committee (the relevant documents are probably here somewhere but good luck in finding references to the IM stuff)

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