Pay to iChat?

I’m not much for chat. But I’ve been seeing that other developers are doing chat sessions with their users about their software—to handle support, bug reports, feature requests, answer questions, etc.

So I thought I’d try out iChat (now that I’m Jaguar-ified).

But... do I understand correctly that I have to pay somebody some money? It appears that one needs either an AOL or .Mac account. True? Or is there some way around the requirement that I open my wallet that I just haven’t realized?

Update 11:45 a.m.: Thanks to Eric Tilton’s help I have signed up for a free AIM account. Cool. My screen name is pbrentsimmons. (The “p” stands for Peter, my first name.)

27 Aug 2002

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