Alright, so I've decided to finally drop proprietary IM protocols.

To some extend because promoting free software and open standards while at the same using proprietary protocols of companies that don't respect your privacy is a bit, well, let's be honest, hypocritic. On the other hand though because I've increasingly grown fed up with WLM/MSN/ICQ/YIM/AIM, their quirks and the inability to provide me with what I want.

I've already stopped using YIM and AIM with the rest following soon. What I've learnt from this so far is how very scary proprietary IM actually is. Since (for now) I still use Yahoo as my spambox e-mail provider, I just disabled the messenger component and it was very simple.

But when I tried to delete my AIM account, stuff got difficult. Brace yourselves, this gets pretty ugly! First of all, the general AOL's idea on how to "cancel AIM" is "just stop using it". The second odd thing is that they have more then one official help/support portal (yes, portal. it's big!). That being said the official help I found on how to cancel an AOL account was that if you're a paid customer, it's just a click away; if you're a sad sap who got the free account only to communicate to some other bloke on AIM, …weeeeeheeheheheeeell, then it depends, maaaaaybeee you can delete it, maybe you can't. As luck has it, in my case (and in case of many people out there) my free account doesn't allow me to cancel it. A quick search on the aforementioned help portal says it could be because I have a child account. Which is kinda odd, since a child account, as I understand it, is a subaccount made by an adult person with their own full account and I can remember registring my account while already full age. Setting the problem aside that AIM just called me a bastard (= a parentless child), the problem stays that I cannot cancel my account. Of course, live (= phone, e-mail etc.) help is only available to paid customers. Well, I'm cooked there. I searched the web a bit and found out one of many self-help groups which lists a few solutions. For now I'm trying the contact-AOL-UK-and-hope-they-comply method, but if that fails – people report it fails more often then not – they go so far as to suggest to break AOL's ToS and wait for them to suspend your account and then not log in for half a year. …bloody hell!?!?! The only half-way sure way I can get my AOL account removed is by contract breach?!? That alone should send shivvers down anyone's spine! And people are wondering why I'm against such things.

Below is the notice I'm sending to people on my contact list to explain why I am migrating and informing them of the benefits the XMPP protocol brings:

This is just a friendly notice that I'm leaving (and other proprietary IM protocols). If you want to keep in touch via instant messaging you can add my XMPP/Jabber ID to your contacts: matija [döt] suklje [ät] gabbler [døt] org or you can always send me an e-mail at matija [æt] suklje [doŧ] name.

There are many reasons why I'm switching to XMPP (Jabber) and here I'll list just a few of its advantages.

XMPP is:

  • open standardXMPP is the only IM protocol that is an internet standard and it's free software as well, so anyone can use, adapt or write from scratch their own XMPP client, server or other program that uses it.
  • decentralised – so it doesn't matter on which server you are, you can always keep in touch with people on other servers, as is already true with e-mail (e.g. if you have GMail, you can just add my Jabber ID to your contacts, since GTalk is just Google's XMPP server); this also means you can chose any server you like best or even build your own and you won't lose the ability to chat with your friends. So you're not locked to just one provider.
  • extensible and flexibleXMPP stands for Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, so you can easily use it to provide additional functionailty. E.g. people already use it to (micro)blog, get news and status updates, issue commands to remote computers, collaborate, play games over it and all sorts of stuff.
  • security – the protocol itself uses industry-standard TLS and SASL for security and many XMPP servers pledge to never log your what you chat. That is not something you can expect from proprietary IM like MSN/WLM which stores whom you chatted with and what eternally (sic!). This is also a reason why even though you can use GTalk, I would advise you to chose a server that expects your privacy – Jabber.org and Gabbler.org are such examples, but there's many more. And since you can always build your own, you can be in complete control of your own data.
  • can communicate with other IM – if you desperately need to use other IM protocols, you can just tell the XMPP server to forward the messages to and from your other IM accounts.

Well, that's it from me. If you decide that a) this sounds good; or at least b) you'd like to keep in IM contact with me, here's a (non-complete!) list of XMPP servers where you can make your account: http://xmpp.org/services/ (Jabber.org is the oldest and most popular); and add me: matija [döt] suklje [ät] gabbler [døt] org

There is also a great number of clients (programs to connect to XMPP) you can use: http://xmpp.org/xmpp-software/clients/ (I use Kopete, but chose whichever you like best; there's even web-based clients if you're in a cybercafe)

In case you got really excited about it, you can also run your own server: http://xmpp.org/xmpp-software/servers/

Cheers and hope to chat with you someday again,

Matija "hook" Šuklje

If anyone has done or plans to do a similar move, I'd be happy to hear about your experiences.

hook out → hmmm, tea with honey's nice, but sadly honey usually overpowers the delicate taste of tea

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