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MSN to lock out unauthorised clients from October

By 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.

What now?
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.


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Just use IRC.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 31/8/03 10:10PM
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> mavhc: Just use IRC

The problem is when you have a large number of friends who use MSN from PCs. They have no want to move to IRC just because a friend with a quirky OS can't access the network. -- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 31/8/03 11:02PM
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Your friends are broken, fix them or get new ones.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 31/8/03 11:06PM
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I only ever used instant messengers for sending people a message in the form of "Log on to IRC, slacker" or "See you on TOTH in a mo" and such. It was at that point I realised that it was a pointless medium. :)

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 1/9/03 12:02AM
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Besides the security issues arisen from other clients using the network, what difference does it make to MS. It's not as if they're loosing bussiness to other clients - they're client is free and so are most others. You're not paying for the clients ability to communicate with the network, just the extra features that have been added. If they were in a seperate program MS wouldn't have a problem. If a person chooses another client over their's, then it should be telling them their doing something wrong. They still have the same number of people using the network, just different client software. -- Smiler - :D Alex Melhuish

 is a RISC OS UserSmiler on 1/9/03 10:42AM
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MS would, and does, have a problem with other people adding "extra features" to their products, as they want total control over their software and their protocols.

And people have been telling MS they've been wrong for years, but it doesn't make any difference.

 is a RISC OS Usertakkaria on 1/9/03 11:19AM
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> what difference does it make to MS.

They also lose revenue from banner advertising (MSN Messenger has adverts at the bottom of the window)

Using a client other than MSN Messenger results in the resources that it uses not being paid for, whilst if they use the MS client, the banner ads cover the costs.

 is a RISC OS UserFylecore on 1/9/03 1:35PM
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It would be fair of M$ to require banner adverts to be displayed.

I bet there will be more to it though. -- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 1/9/03 1:53PM
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Don't forget the MSN client has links to all sorts of other content which is probably sponsored as well.

 is a RISC OS Userrussebay on 1/9/03 4:26PM
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Who uses MSN anyway? ICQ is much better and has encryption and plenty of open source clients.

Might be a good time to look at Jabber, although I doubt many PC users know any different to MSN/AIM....

-- #include "sig.h"

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 1/9/03 5:39PM
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> Who uses MSN anyway?

The fact that MSN in installed as standard with a Windows installation now mean that more people are more likely to use it who would probably not be IM'ing otherwise.

Some of my family etc who live overseas are barely computer literate and do not wish to install ICQ or similar stuff, but they can just about set up a NET Passport. MSN Messenger has got me talking to friends and family that I wouldn't be talking to without it. (Sad state of affairs, but true.)

Also, a lot of Cybercafes, Uni's etc will have MSN installed, but probably not AIM or ICQ.

MSN Messenger may or may not suck as an IM system, BUT the most important thing is that it allows me to easily communicate with people that I want to.

 is a RISC OS UserFylecore on 1/9/03 6:14PM
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A question for the learned. I have tried and failed to set up a Hotmail account.Could it be I tried to go through Mozilla instead of Exporer to register. Will not accept my password and tells me the account is blocked.

 is a RISC OS Userjlavallin on 1/9/03 6:20PM
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Fylecore: Web based ICQ works fine on most windows PCs

-- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 1/9/03 7:53PM
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In reply to Fylecore:

You see, this is exactly the problem with the MS monopoly - they bundle buggy Email clients, browsers, media players and IMs with Windows and people accept them as they're too lazy or don't have the know-how to use alternatives!

It seems that this is the way it will stay though as the whole "de-bundle MSIE" court ruling seems to have been bought-off.

-- #include "sig.h"

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 2/9/03 4:29PM
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simo: Please name a browser that *isn't* buggy.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 2/9/03 5:33PM
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In ye olde reply to simo:

But IM isn't a monopoly really - AIM has quite a strong presence too, as do others. I use AIM, as it's the default that comes with my Mac. Sure Microsoft will get bigger penetration with this, but it's not really the end of the world.

Microsoft are perfectly valid in closing off other people for business reasons. It sucks if you're on an unsupported platform (one persumes Linux clients will be borked now) and wish to chat to another MSN user. Microsoft could produce say a Java implementation of MSN, but that would a) most likely suck the way most java apps do compared to native implementations, and b) not really make good business sense.

You're now just in the same boat as if MSN didn't exist though - you'd still have to talk your computer illiterate friends into installing some other client. This is just an inconvenience, not the end of the world.

Now if I can persuade Spriteman to get an AIM account... ;)

-- Dougal

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 2/9/03 6:40PM
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"Microsoft are perfectly valid in closing off people for business reasons"

Ahem !

They've lost more court cases than I can shake a stick at for that sort of activity !

The EU is already looking at whether Media player should be "unbundled" or if people should be given the choice of an alternative. Surely the same applies to IM.

For fairness PC users should have the same ease choosing "any" IM client that can interoperate with MSN as they could with MSN itself (otherwise MS will simply abusing it's market position (again IMHO)).

I take your point Dougal that MSN is *not* the only option, but due to it's widespread market penetration it does have a somewhat commanding position.

The problem is not necessarily that MS have a monopoly, but what they do with it once they have it. And usually it ain't pretty.

-- Annraoi McShane,

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 2/9/03 6:48PM
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Personally i think that there are plenty of intelligent programmers out there who will break the "security code" which m$ builds in their MSN client within a short amount of time.

Their so-called "upgrade" is nothing more then a piece of code build in the MSN clients,with the sole purpose of getting the money out of our pockets.

Maintaining a network is sooo expensive for the world richest company.

This is a standard M$ tactic: First give it away for free. Then when allmost every competitor has gone: "Pay, you little software pirate! Or otherwise we see you in the court house!"

Let hope one of the programmers is a risc os user...If not, lets keep our wallets closed...



 is a RISC OS UserRdenk12 on 3/9/03 8:50AM
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Rdenk12: Depends on how they inforce it. If they use digital certificates, then anybody who wants to circumvent it better not have any wish of visiting the US.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 3/9/03 4:02PM
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Yes, Uncle Sam takes good care of his favorite nephew...

But writing a virus is also a thing which you cannot do if you want to visit the US...

Yet these things seems to pop up time and again in M$ country...ive heard...



 is a RISC OS Userrick11 on 3/9/03 6:14PM
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Dougal wrote: Now if I can persuade Spriteman to get an AIM account...

You write me one and I'll use it :P -- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 6/9/03 1:26PM
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Personally I think it's a great thing that Windows is supplied with MSN Messenger, Internet Explorer, etc. Wouldn't RISC OS benefit from being supplied with these kind of well-featured applications as standard?

Of course you can say it leads to a monopoly but only because lazy and/or stupid people don't try the alternatives. I know that some think these sorts of people should not be using computers or the internet but I see it as quiet the opposite. It just goes to show how user friendly computers have become so as to allow even those with limited computer skills benefit from the resources out there.

telt -- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 6/9/03 1:33PM
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Well RISC OS Select does include the ANt suite with Fresco ;)

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 6/9/03 2:04PM
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Where user friendly means you need to know about security patches if you don't want your harddisc wiped, your computer crashed and your internet connection used to send spam? in that case, yeah.

Everyone with half a brain can switch to a decent messaging system like irc, I'm glad none of the rest can contact me.

Remember: Always get your filter to delete email with the word Microsoft in the Client header, or with html in, you'd be amazed at the increase in the average sender IQ.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 6/9/03 6:03PM
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