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

Friday, June 27, 2008

An AIM Express low down

My how time flies! The last time I posted, it was pretty much right after the iPhone SDK announcement by Apple. Since then a lot has happened, and I haven't posted about any of it! I will try to post with more detail on each thing as the summer rolls on.

First off, after the announcement I went back to my day job, which is working on the new version of AIM Express. Which, by the way, is in public beta! Check it out here:
We were given the task of rewriting AIM Express from scratch. AOL hadn't been showing AIM Express any lovin' lately, so we wanted to restart the project for all the folks that still use AIM Express. Since it was a complete rewrite, a lot of features are still being brought in, and we'd love your feedback on what to do! Leave us your feedback once you try it out!

AIM Express 7 is written in Flash, which provided us a great platform to try and build something with a lot of dynamics, while still being cross-browser compatible (for the most part, we're workin on that (thanks IE!)).

So, how do you build an AIM client from scratch in ActionScript? We decided to use the WIM API, which is our new web-based interface for writing your very own AIM app.

Some developer notes on AE7:

It's using pure ActionScript 3.0 - none of the mess of AS2 - which proved to be an excellent development environment along with Adobe Flex Builder. We use Flex builder as our IDE, but it doesn't use any Flex code, just pure low-level flash rendering. On top of that we built our own lightweight UI framework to suit our needs for this project. This allowed us to complete access to the dev pipeline, making things like (simple) skinning and quick layout optimization.

Some of you know that AOL also runs ICQ, and ICQ has a web client as well called ICQ2Go! Well, our team at AOL was given the task of building 1 application that can run as both ICQ and AIM. This was a daunting task, as both apps run basically the same, but have some significant differences. All in all, I think we've been able to build an app that can make both AIM and ICQ users happy. Here's a screenshot of ICQ2Go:

We're still working hard to make this app be great - between Beta 1 and Beta 2, we added custom status messages, tooltips and IM sounds. We are working on some other great features, also keeping in mind that we have some ways to go in making AIM Express 7 a client you'd want to use even if you had a chat client installed on your desktop!

One last thing: The WIM api is free to use for anyone who wants to try writing an app that uses the AIM network (all the way from your own AIM wimzi app, to building a full-featured desktop replacement!). And, if you're using Flash, you'll be glad to know that we decided to open-source the library we wrote for AIM Express 7 that handles talking to WIM for you! I'll be talking more about that in the future, but check out the code at:

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