Re-AOL: A reverse-engineered AOL 3.0 server written in Python
Because... who doesn't want to use AOL 3.0 for Windows 3.1 in 2022?
A new project has emerged that I find absolutely fascinating:
An attempt to develop a server that is compatible with the AOL 3.0 clients (originally released back in 1996).
Currently developed by a small team (11 people in total), entirely in Python, the “Re-AOL” project is not yet open source — but, according to some of the developers on the project’s discord channel, the lead developer “will be working towards open sourcing the server side eventually.”
The focus of the team is currently on supporting AOL for Windows version 3.0 (released for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95)… though other versions (including Macintosh versions) are being worked on or considered. From of the developers:
“AOL 3.0 is the primary focus although, the server has the capability to support 2.5, 3.0, 4.0, and a few later versions although, it’s not fully built out just yet.”
Setting up a client, and testing Re-AOL, is not currently a 100% straight-forward process… one that is only documented on the Re-AOL discord channel. And, if you want to get a screen name registered (and not be simple a “Guest” users) on the team’s development server, you’ll need to become a supporter of the project on Patreon.
Just the same, it looks as though a few key bits of AOL 3.0 functionality are currently at least somewhat functional, including:
There are obviously many features left to implement, but this is a solid start… and encompasses many of the key features of that era of AOL.
The one thing I would truly love to see is the ability for someone to setup and self-host an “AOL 3.0 Compatible” Re-AOL server. Heck, I know that I would love to self-host such a thing. Just because. Sounds like a hoot.
Possibly even a hoot and a half.
And it sounds like this should be possible once the source code is released. Considering Re-AOL is based, in some part, on the source from another project which is GPL’d, I would assume that will happen sooner than later.
<SubtleHint> Because. You know. GPL. </SubtleHint>
The project is absolutely fascinating. And adorable. Kudos to the lead developer behind this project, and the team that has formed around it. I love it when people work to make older software useful and functional in the modern era.
OH MY GOODNESS! I love it. So many memories of AOL chats and AOL IM.