BRAVO TECHNOLOGY CENTER

AIM Mandatory Upgrade 2017 by Sam C. Chan
 March 20, 2017


You received an IM notice:
Your AIM version will not work after March 28.
(paraphrasing here for claritythey used "not available")

Is the notice I just received legitimate?

  • Yes. I have verified the authenticity of this announcement from AOL. 
  • Beware that IM announcements might be spoofed.

What would happen if I wait?

  • There are no technical issues. No security concerns. 
  • AOL's policy is to sunset legacy versions, for their business reasons. 
  • Historically, they have been known to (at least twice) extend scheduled cut-off by over a year, due to user revolt. 
  • This time, retreat is unlikely, due to their dwindling user base (insignificant revenue stream, hence, no high stake).
  • Your current version will presumably be blocked on the magic date.

Can I perform the upgrade myself?

  • I consider this a low risk operation, with 95% chance you will succeed. 
  • However, it's a certainty that you will have minor issues, such as:
    • all security and privacy settings reverting to AOL defaults, etc.
    • inadvertently installed unwanted AOL toolbar
    • switching browser start page to AOL portal site
    • setting AOL as your default Search Engine
    • revert your AIM setting to auto-update, against IT policy
    • You must also adjust host-based firewall
  • There is even a slight risk that the process will fail in a messy way.

How do I do that?

  • Download from aim.com and install. Follow instructions. 
  • The version I recommend is 7.5.21.5 (the only valid choice)
  • Remember: all 6.x & 8.x versions are banned by Bravo, since 2006 and 2012 respectively.
  • As of this writing, AOL seems to have hidden the good supported version at their Legacy downloads page, forcing the general public to get their latest version.

What's wrong with 8.x?

  • It's essentially 6.x with complete cosmetic transformation. 
  • No longer a private messenging program, now a full-fledge public social media platform with publicized "friends" list, and intrusive, distractive design, and busy activities.
  • The install package is 3x the size, with much higher CPU and memory utilization. 
  • The layout is wasteful in space, and poor ergonomics (fonts, colors, etc.). 
  • AOL took active measures to prevent IT from blocking ad streams.
  • Privacy: 
    • it now forces all messages and file transfer thru their server. 
    • they declare that mesage log will only be stored for 2 months, but that is impossible. 
    • Truth: AOL will indefinitely retained logs
    • in 7.x version, server only involved in brokering the initial connection
  • file transfer restrictions, interference and incompatibility
    • 50+ file types are banned and confiscated (failed transfer) 
    • transfer not possible between 7.x and 8.x users!
    • 2-step w/ delays: wait for upload to finish, then wait for server scanning & indexing for their future searches, then recipient gets a link, and start downloading from their server
    • can no longer drop-n-drop diagrams and instantly display in-line stacked within chat window: must go thru tedious download process, save files, and open files manually, individually in your own viewer application!
There are many other specific performance, complexity, reliability and security concerns, beyond the scope of this memo. Suffice it to say that 8.x is not compliant with your applicable industrial/governmental regulatory requirements, re: client confidentiality, data disclosure and unintended unauthorized custodianship.

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