More on AIM & iChat

Follow-on from yesterday’s post

This topic has been ranted about on Slashdot, discussed rather more intelligently on MacSlash and brought up on several other blogs. The key points seem to me to be:

  • It is possible to establish direct peer-to-peer connections between AIM clients for chatting. iChat attempts to do this whenever you send a file, picture etc. It remains in direct-connection mode afterwards. You can also ask it to establish a direct connection using the ‘Buddies’ menu. After establishing such a connection, AOL would be unable to snoop on the data, though, legally, they probably still have right to it if you send it using an AOL product. iChat, Adium, etc are not AOL’s, though the initial connection would have been established using their services. Mmm…
  • If you hang on for a couple more months, the version of iChat that comes with Tiger will have some new features. It supports the Jabber protocol, making it easy for you to set up your own server for sensitive communications, and the new Mac OS X Server edition includes such a server.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from downloading and using Skype, MSN messenger or a Jabber client now. It’s just that, if you’re like me, far fewer of your friends can be found on those systems, and the software is generally inferior from a user-interface point of view.

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1 Comment

Another wrinkle with this situation is that if you don’t own your conversation (due to AOL’s terms), it becomes rather difficult to sue someone else for snooping (e.g. stealing trade secrets). It may also be the case that AOL’s rights are transferrable, so they could sell iChat the rights to capture your conversation without notifying you (it’s their conversation after all).

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