Log in ....Tribune

Monday, May 19, 2003

A Netizens ‘item’
Frederick Noronha

YES, chatting with friends has become a real breeze thanks to MSN, e-mail and what not. But guess what? It’s just got even easier, with a new free software solution called "ayttm" worked out by a young Indian technologist in collaboration with his partners in France and elsewhere.

Here’s how the young Mumbai-based Phillip S. Tellis, who is behind the new innovation in the constantly evolving world of software developments, described his brainchild: "To me, ayttm is a fun toy that lets me talk to my friends (anywhere via the Internet) without having to care whether they use MSN, Yahoo! AOL or anything else. I also see ayttm as a collaborative tool," said Tellis, pronouncing ayttm as "item." The Free Software advocate, who is in his twenties, says the new software will not cause compatibility problems that block communications between Internet chat enthusiasts using different platforms like MSN, Yahoo! or AOL. "Even hour shifts don’t count as we never sleep," another key member of the project, Colin Leroy of France, told IANS, when asked about the difficulties of working in such loose-networks across continents, involving people who have often not even met one another.

The enthusiasm is clearly infectious. Tellis, for instance, who is with the Mumbai-based government-run NCST software centre, promotes Free Software in his spare time.

According to him, the "biggest difference" between ayttm and other Internet Messaging (IM) clients is the way it handles integration between different "services".

Initially, the lack of integration meant those using say, Yahoo! could only talk to others using Yahoo! and so on.

"Official clients still don’t (offer integration across different services). Other IM clients that do support integration, treat your contacts as separate accounts on separate services," explained Tellis. He went on: "We prefer to treat a person as, well, a person. You shouldn’t have to care about whether someone is using MSN or Yahoo! or AOL, and just be able to chat with her or him. Furthermore, if one of the services fails, ayttm will automatically fall back to the next available one." But, of course, ayttm does have some limitations.

Tellis admitted that their ayttm is "lacking in (some) areas" as compared to "official clients" from the giant Microsoft-run MSN and the equally omnipresent-on-the-Net service Yahoo! For instance, it does not offer native voice and video-based chats yet.

Ayttm (http://ayttm.sourceforge.net), like projects from the Free Software world that allows techies to modify and improve on each other’s code, inherited some of its features from the earlier program called Everybuddy. Free Software projects, often running on the GNU/Linux platform—a small but impressive alternative to the proprietorial Microsoft Windows used for chatting—included Gaim and Everybuddy.

Tellis joined overseas coders who have been working on Ayttm since December

2002 and teamed up with them in January. Earlier, he was the Yahoo! maintainer for the Everybuddy project.

Some of ayttm’s future plans include greater stability, cleaner code, voice and video functionality and even encrypted chat for currently skeptical companies to begin trusting chat options via the Net. "We’ve received patches from a whole list of people. We’ve also got to credit our beta testers who really take the product to its limits, and our users who tell us what they’d like to see in it. Everyone’s contributed to making ayttm what it is," Tellis points out.