UPDATED Adding yet another chapter to the seemingly endless battle over instant messaging, AOL has begun blocking Trillian users from accessing its servers, effectively cutting off communication between the independent client and AOL's ad-laden software. Trillian does not provide its own messaging platform, but instead combines the most popular services into a single program and eliminates the need to run multiple clients. The standoff began last week and Cerulean Studios -- developer of Trillian -- continues to issue updates immediately bypassing each new block.
Such resistance to outsiders is nothing new to AOL, which played similar games with Microsoft in 1999 and again with Odigo in 2000. Microsoft eventually gave in and focused on improving MSN Messenger, which has now begun to eat away at AOL's controlling market share. Odigo in July 2000 formed IMUnified, a coalition designed to work towards instant messaging interoperability, and continues to tout AOL compatibility in its client.
Trillian has gained notoriety among IM users due to its simple interface and customization features. Using a single window, Trillian can communicate with ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, IRC and until this week - AOL Instant Messenger. Constant updates have made the client more appealing than AOL's, as AIM has changed little in the past three years. And perhaps its biggest draw, Trillian sports no advertising or nag screens.
AOL defends its right to block Trillian, calling the software a hack that endangers the security of AIM. Such talk has sparked a heated debate in the industry, with critics accusing AOL of monopolizing a system that should be open.
A Microsoft spokesperson assured BetaNews they had no plans to follow in AOL's footsteps. "As we've said all along, we believe that the ultimate benefit for consumers is a standard for instant messaging/interoperability among all IM products. MSN continues to work with the IETF and the rest of the industry to make that happen so that consumers can communicate openly and freely with friends and family no matter what instant messaging service they use."
Trillian users have joined together to support the start-up by sending in donations to ensure additional updates. Although it has won in the past, AOL may have met an unexpected adversary with Trillian, as the software is designed and supported by those who ultimately control AOL's fate - the consumers.
Download the latest patch to correct the AIM connectivity issues via FileForum.