It was announced, yesterday, that the popular multi-headed instant messaging client, Gaim, has undergone a name change. The new name, Pidgin, comes after years of secret discussions and legal issues with internet giant, AOL. The issues revolved around the name “Gaim” and AOL‘s defense of their “AIM” trademark. The developers explain in their blog:
Many years ago when this project was first started, it was called “GTK+ AOL Instant Messenger.” AOL naturally complained, and Mark Spencer changed the name to “Gaim.” AOL was appeased, and no one really ever heard of it because there were very few users back then.
A few years later AOL trademarked “AIM,” and started referring to their IM services using that name. They complained. The issue was brought up on Slashdothttp://slashdot.org/ and the Gaim developers at the time got some legal support. That legal support advised that the ongoing discussions with AOL be kept confidential until fully settled, and so it remained. The public thought the issue had gone away then. It sorta did, in that AOL stopped responding to Gaim’s legal support for a while.
Our legal support has changed several times, and each group of lawyers have recommended silence & secrecy. Around the time of Gaim’s first 2.0.0 beta, AOL came back into our lives in a very strong way, this time threatening to sue Sean.
This represents a clear pattern. AOL received more pushback than they expected, and would sort of let things stand for a while. Then they would threaten a different Gaim developer. Each time a new Gaim developer was threatened, we had to look at new legal support, to prevent a conflict of interest.
This process could not go on forever. As a result we ended up forming the Instant Messaging Freedom Corporation, and making it legally responsible for Gaim. We also had our new legal support work to create a real settlement with AOL that would get this issue dismissed from our lives forever.
Getting a settlement with AOL has taken FAR FAR longer than we would have ever guessed. On legal advice, we have refrained from any non-beta release during this process as a show of good faith, and to keep AOL from giving up on it. Again, on legal advice, we have also kept this information closely controlled.
At long last, I am pleased to announce that we have a signed settlement and can release our new version. There is one catch however: we have had to change the project’s name.
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Gaim, Pidgin, Forced, Name, Change, AOL, AIM, IM, Instant Messaging, GTK+