WARNING: This blog contains random thoughts on technology, software engineering, and general all-round nerdery. Read at your own risk. Nerd is contagious.

Monday, October 16, 2006

7 Reasons You Should Check Out AIM Lite

UPDATE: Greg has a post about AIM Lite/ET on his blog and it contains screenshots, including what one of the developers' cubes look like. Read his post.

A small group of AOL developers have been working on an alternate version of AIM. This version doesn't really have a name because nobody knows how to describe it. AIM Lite, Lighter AIM, AIM ET (Experimental Technology). I think the best name for it is LAIM. It's cool, easy to say, makes fun of itself (lame), and differentiates itself from AIM by not having 'AIM' as a word in its name. I've had some experience working with members of the LAIM team, and here are 7 reasons you should check it out.

1. Lightning Fast. There's no (software) middle man. Every component is there for a reason, and great steps have been taken to ensure that performance is not compromised. Sign in time is quick, and even large buddy lists load dramatically fast. I was surprised by how fast the app feels.

2. Small Footprint. No middle man means less mouths to feed. Memory usage is lower than most IM clients by a long shot. The LAIM team treats new code like its a module in a space capsule, if its too heavy it won't fly. And it's the plan to keep it that way.

3. Simple Installation. Sometimes big companies like to advertise other products or bundle their apps with other things. Even worse, these things are sometimes opt-out, not opt-in. LAIM uses a nice NSIS installer that cleans up whatever it installed on your machine. If you try and install a newer version of LAIM, the installation is silent, like Google Talk's upgrade feature.

4. Back to Basics. This is a reset. LAIM is back to chat and file transfers. Other things are being added, but the point is to keep it as a tight functional core. Many people who run LAIM for the first time will probably feel like the fluff is gone. Things that can be done inline are done inline. UI clutter is at a minimum (well, because there aren't that many features yet). For example, there are no menu bars. The menu bar on the Buddy List is the leftmost titlebar button that looks like a drop down arrow.

5. Room to Grow. Firefox proved to the world that building an app as a platform is the way to go. LAIM's being written to eventually be a platform for allowing extensions / plug-ins. Let's not forget theming, that's on the plan too. By letting it be a platform, new experiences can be tested in LAIM before making it to production AIM clients (like AIM Triton).

6. New Technology. LAIM uses Boxely, the new XML-based UI platform, which is also being developed at AOL. Boxely is like XUL on steroids. Easy to customize but very powerful. It supports animations, compositing UI elements like Photoshop layers, different layouts in a simple XML language which is easy to understand. There's a reason LAIM doesn't encrypt its UI, you can find out why yourself ;)

7. It Needs You. You can tell the LAIM developers what you like and don't like about the app. Unlike other apps at AOL, this is an experimental client, so the requirements are well, flexible. Click on the WTF? button and leave feedback. You can believe me that they read every comment. Use the comments to pitch an idea of how you think instant messaging should be.

This is really early software, so even the site is not finished, but check it out and download it. I promise it won't bite!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea! lets see how long they take to ruin it. Like ICQ lite - great idea, but they have trashed it now.

A) hope they keep it minimalist.
(you know the good ole KISS!)

B) wonder if rooms work with it. or purely IM only... (asking because I know someone that needs this, but is an AIM room addict)

C) would be nice to see a REAL offical aim client for linux ppl (that ver 1.5 - whatever they claim works is a sick joke. doesnt even have ignore/block) Would love C source for linux... but I guess thats just a dream.

7:06 PM


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