See also: Instant Messengers

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Acronym: AOL Instant Messenger

One of the most popular chat clients on the Internet, AIM was originally made for the users of the America OnLine (AOL) service but has become popular enough to be a major IM network. You do not have to be an AOL subscriber to use AIM nor do you lose your nickname after you leave. AOL is part of AOL/Time Warner – an RIAA member.

While not the best chat client, although it is among the simplest, most common, and increasingly available for cell phones. More fully-featured alternatives exist, including both ICQ and Yahoo Messenger.

Negatively, AIM integrates pop-up advertisement that are highly unpopular in the Internet Explorer browser.



ICQ is also owned by AOL/Time Warner but is a separate chat system. AOL seems to be merging the two as recent official AIM and ICQ clients can communicate with contacts on both networks but this has not happened so far.


Suggestions for AIM users:

  • Be sure to check through AIM’s settings to customize it to your needs.
  • Sending files via AIM can be inhibited by a Firewall. Disable firewalls before sending large files.
  • AIM can work as a file server by enabling the “file sharing” option but uses UDP packets, which are not as fast or reliable as some other methods of transport, including FTP and HTTP.
  • For speed and memory (and those annoyed by AIM noises), search your computer for “*.wav” files and delete those in the AIM directory you recognize.
  • Consider a client or a plugin that allows secure chat (see next section below).

Enabling Secure Chat

Many Chat Clients are is easily sniffed using many tools available, including AimSniff. Fortunately, there are a variety of methods to allow for some security.

As of AIM’s latest version (Windows only), an encryption feature was added to the system. Although secure chat requires a certificate that usually costs money, one is available for free through, or cryptgate (use a search engine to find others) (More from TechTV article and Aol’s page on personal certificates)

AimEncrypt uses the same certificate for everyone – this means that anyone can download your certificate and use it to decrypt your messages. The Cryptgate certificates seem to be randomly generated, so it should be much more secure (their site does ask for personal info though 🙁 ). Neither confirm one’s identity, unlike personal certificates.

Note About AimEncrypt: When installing any certificate in AIM, the user can determine a personal password. While it is not required to have a personal password, it may enhance security to do so. However, it is important that one not forget his/her password or be forced to reinstall the client and then possibly still experience a request for the entered password at startup. (at a guess the password is used to cypher the certificate so that if anyone copys it off your computer it still requires effort to use)

GAIM and Jabber

Multi-protocol chat tools that works on many more operating systems than AIMEncrypt, individuals can use the AIM or other chat services to chat securely using an encryption plugin.

  • GAIM – only one client that requires a plugin
  • Jabber – has a variety of clients, some coming with SSL by default


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