AOL is working on their damage control. The story is that the TOS quoted previously applies not to individual messages, but to posts in common areas like message boards and the like (AIM message boards?).

Regardless, the PR flacks can say whatever they want, this doesn’t change the disturbing wording of their written policies. Realistically, monitoring all of the millions of AIM conversations going on at any given time just isn’t practical, but it’s still a little unsettling to know that all this traffic is passing through AOL’s servers and there’s really no way to know what’s going on there.

This is why moving to Jabber is a good idea. Unlike AIM, it doesn’t rely on a central server (or worse, a single corporation) to work. It’s similar to IRC in that if you have access to one Jabber server, you can talk to anyone using any other Jabber server. Jabber IDs use the format <username>@<jabber_server>. They are similar to e-mail addresses in appearance but they should not be confused with them.

Other benefits of Jabber are that it’s free and open source, it supports SSL for encrypted communication, and there are a wide variety of clients available, many of which support other networks as well. So you can use one client for Jabber, AIM, or whatever.

As it happens, my Dreamhost account includes unlimited use of their Jabber server. So I can now be reached via Jabber at kchrist@im.synaesthetic.net. Anyone who wants an account, let me know. I’m currently using a client called Fire, but the next version of OS X will include an updated version of iChat that also supports Jabber, so at that point I’ll go back to just using that.