MSN to lock out unauthorised clients from OctoberBy Chris Williams. Published: 31st Aug 2003, 16:49:26 | Permalink | Printable
MS asking for licenses, so alternatives?Microsoft is reportedly planning to prevent users of third party MSN Messenger clients from connecting to the MSN instant messaging service. From 15th October, only the latest versions of Windows Messenger will be able to connect to Microsoft's instant messaging service, reports IDG. The MSN instant messaging service is a popular online chat system, where users can send each other messages and the RISC OS platform has a few available MSN clients.
Developers of third party clients are being contacted by Microsoft to arrange licensing deals and any unlicensed or unauthorised clients will be eventually be locked out of the messaging service. It turns out there's a undisclosed security vulnerability in Microsoft's messenger client and service, which they're keen to prevent by disallowing what they call "unauthorized access". It's trustworthy computing in action. Using a RISC OS client, we've certainly noticed messages from MSN staff informing us that our MSN client is too old and we apparently need to upgrade immediately.
"Running an (IM) network is expensive," said Lisa Gurry, group product manager for MSN at Microsoft, quoted by IDG. "We can't sustain multiple other people's businesses, particularly if they charge for certain versions of their software. We're introducing licensing processes for third parties like Trillian."
This is a fancy way of saying 'there's no such thing as a free lunch'. We grudgingly accept Microsoft's point of view that it's not fair that they provide a network and the bandwidth for free, while other companies make money off clients for that network. Whilst the majority of MSN users are Windows users and non-Microsoft clients are in the minority, we all know Microsoft likes to eat minorities for breakfast.
Is this going to be a headache for developers of RISC OS MSN clients? We reckon yes - although, earlier in the month when news first broke of Microsoft's cunning plan to block unauthorised clients, the various developers of the RISC OS MSN clients were keen to play down fears and insist something could be worked out in time for the October lock out. Christian Hammond, the lead developer for the MSN component in gaim, an open source instant messaging client, also took a similar relaxed attitude. MSN clients need to be capable of coping with the MSN Protocol v8 (which features SSL based login) in time for the October switch over. However, reverse engineering protocols and forcing unlicensed clients onto networks is just itching for a toe to toe bout with the DMCA.
We've learnt that R-Comp (publishers of Grapevine) and Russell Palmer (author of Natter) have invested a significant amount of development time into their software to address the October lock out so it'll be interesting to see how that pans out.
Of course, if our clients fail to connect to the network from mid-October, there's other messaging protocols that can be supported. Yahoo's implementation could be supported in future and IRC and ICQ are pretty much already covered. Also, maybe we will see support for Jabber, an open instant messaging system that's growing in popularity and would be a good fallback if we lose access to the MSN instant messaging service.
Instant messaging is essential to many internet addicted RISC OS users, including this editor, and also to users who wish to keep in contact with friends far away. Regardless of Microsoft's actions, there's still plenty of other protocols to chose from.
Microsoft seeks cash from instant messaging client developers
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