I was quite expectant when I saw this article on CNet this morning:
AOL was set to announce on Monday that it is opening up its AIM Software Development Kit to Linux, Mac OS X and Pocket PC developers. In addition, the company is providing the ability for developers to build customized plug-ins and other software […].
Sounds all rather good – you’ll be able to write your own software clients to access the AIM network, provide better web-based status icons (like ICQ does), and develop your own plugins to the official AIM client (provided that they do not interfere with the adware in the client). But visiting the new AIM Developers site which goes with the announcement and viewing their FAQ reveals the following note:
Q: Are there any restrictions on what I can build?
[…] Developers are not permitted to build Custom Clients that are multi-headed or interoperable with any other IM network. […]
There are other restrictions but this one was the biggest letdown, in my opinion. I thought that with this announcement AIM was going the way of Google and allowing users of any client to access its network with authorisation. Now it seems that any clients using this new software development kit must be exclusively AIM clients and not offer any other IM network connectivity.
It’s a shame, especially as the next release of Windows Live Messenger will allow users to speak to buddies on Yahoo! Messenger(see info here), and apparently the inverse is true too. And having seen some of the the Google Summer of Code projects, we could see improved Jabber and Google Talk in interoperable IM clients later this year, including voice chat. AOL could have done so much more with this announcement, but the restrictions they impose could marginalise the network even more. MSN has already overtaken AIM as the most-used network, and Google Talk is becoming increasingly popular with more technical users, due to its openness and flexibility.