Protocols/OSCAR/Sign On

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OSCAR Protocol
UUIDsErrorsTool IDs
Host Interaction
Rate LimitsMigrationMessages
Other Services
Sign OnBARTRendezvous
OSERVICE (0x0001)
LOCATE (0x0002)
BUDDY (0x0003)
ICBM (0x0004)
ADVERT (0x0005)
INVITE (0x0006)
ADMIN (0x0007)
POPUP (0x0008)
PD (0x0009)
STATS (0x000B)
CHAT_NAV (0x000D)
CHAT (0x000E)
ODIR (0x000F)
BART (0x0010)
FEEDBAG (0x0013)
ICQ (0x0015)
BUCP (0x0017)
ALERT (0x0018)
PLUGIN (0x0022)
UNNAMED_FG_24 (0x0024)
MDIR (0x0025)
ARS (0x044A)

NINA clients (AIM, ICQ, et al) have several ways to authenticate and sign on to the network. While AOL may have discontinued all legacy methods, we have brought them back so that all clients and other software that may interact with the network will be fully functional.

This page provides an overview of all of the available methods, primarily from the perspective of the sequence of events and linking to pages with further information.

Stage 1: Initial Authorization

Over the years, the NINA/ICQ/AIM backend has supported several different methods for authentication. Until the NINA project began taking over the responsibility for the OSCAR protocol, the only publicly supported login method was clientLogin.

We actually support all authentication methods, even legacy ones, in order to support the full range of clients. Due to complexity and level of detail, each method had been separated into sub-articles.

This is the oldest method of sign on, used prior to AIM 3.5. It is not to be confused with the FLAP-level sign on for BOSS and other services.
This method is used from AIM 3.5 to AIM 5.9, for ICQ, and can be wrapped in TLS.
Kerberos-based authentication is used in AIM 6+.
This web-based login can be used by both OSCAR clients and WebAPI clients.

Stage 2: Connecting to BOSS

Connect to the host and port (optionally over TLS) provided in the previous step, regardless of the method it was obtained.

Step #1 - Send FLAP SIGNON Frame

Once connected, the client should send a FLAP__FRAME_SIGNON with the login cookie and any version information it would like to provide.

Field Size Value
u08 flapHeader.startMarker '*'
u08 flapHeader.frameType 0x01 (FLAP__FRAME_SIGNON)
u16 flapHeader.sequenceNumber XX
u16 flapHeader.payloadLength YY
u32 version 0x01
u16 tlvs[0].tag 0x06 (FLAP__SIGNON_TAGS_LOGIN_COOKIE)
u16 tlvs[0].len 0x100
blob tlvs[0].value base64 decoded $cookie value from Step #2
u16 tlvs[1].tag 0x4A (OSERVICE__MULTICONN_FLAGS)
u16 tlvs[1].len 0x01
u08 tlvs[1].value 0x01
  1. It should then listen for a FLAP__FRAME_SIGNON from BOSS before continuing.
  2. Once it has received the FLAP__FRAME_SIGNON, the client can start sending SNAC messages to the server.

From Aleksandr Shutko: CLI_COOKIE: server BOS login request


Client use this to login to BOS server. This packet contain cookie, received during authorization. Client should send it to FLAP channel 0x01. See also login sequence info.

 00 00 00 01 dword protocol version number

 00 06   word   TLV.Type(0x06) - authorization cookie
 xx xx   word   TLV.Length
 xx ..   array   authorization cookie
may contain other tlv from the following list (+).

Example SNAC dump with flap header:

  2A 01 10 1F 01 08 00 00 00 01 00 06 01 00 37 37 *.............77
  37 37 37 37 3F 29 44 42 7B 43 31 34 65 32 44 61 7777?)DB.C14e2Da
  31 44 42 66 65 34 42 30 32 30 30 44 61 44 44 39 1DBfe4B0200DaDD9
  42 35 63 32 35 42 63 33 30 64 44 61 32 66 33 66 B5c25Bc30dDa2f3f
  38 63 36 32 65 35 63 7C 65 38 40 41 41 41 41 41 8c62e5c.e8@AAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
  41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41 41       AAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Stage 3: Going Online

Once the connection has been established and the FLAP signon frames have been exchanged, the client can start sending SNACs to the server.

Step 1: Rights Requests

Usually the first thing the client sends are all the rights queries and a FEEDBAG__QUERY SNAC. It can and should send all these requests in parallel for a quicker login experience.

  1. Client queries the BUDDY foodgroup for rights: BUDDY__RIGHTS_QUERY
  2. Query the PD foodgroup rights: PD_RIGHTS_QUERY
  3. Query the LOCATE foodgroup rights: LOCATE_RIGHTS_QUERY
  4. Query the FEEDBAG foodgroup rights: FEEDBAG_RIGHTS_QUERY
  5. Query what the Buddy List and preferences are: FEEDBAG_QUERY

Step 2: FEEDBAG Use and Client Online

Once all the rights replies and feedbag replies are received, it is time to tell the server that the client is ready to proceed.

  1. First tell the server that the feedbag looks OK and the client is ready to use it: FEEDBAG_USE
  2. Next we tell the client we are ready to appear online to everyone else and our version numbers: OSERVICE_CLIENT_ONLINE

Step 3: Online

The client is now considered online, visible to other users, and will start to receive BUDDY__ARRIVED for any online buddies.

Next steps:

From Aleksandr Shutko: Detailed OSCAR login sequence description

 Login sequence   

  <>   Auth connect
  >>   cli_ident
  <<   srv_cookie
  <>   Auth disconnect
  <>   BOS connect
  >>   cli_cookie
  <<   SNAC(01,03)
  >>   SNAC(01,17)
  <<   SNAC(01,18)
  >>   SNAC(01,06)
  <<   SNAC(01,07)
  >>   SNAC(01,08)
  >>   SNAC(13,02)
  >>   SNAC(13,05)
  >>   SNAC(02,02)
  >>   SNAC(03,02)
  >>   SNAC(04,04)
  >>   SNAC(09,02)
  <<   SNAC(02,03)
  <<   SNAC(03,03)
  <<   SNAC(04,05)
  <<   SNAC(09,03)
  <<   SNAC(13,03)
  <<   SNAC(13,0F)
  >>   SNAC(13,07)
  >>   SNAC(02,04)
  >>   SNAC(04,02)
  >>   SNAC(01,1E)
  >>   SNAC(01,02)

From Aleksandr Shutko: Detailed OSCAR login sequence description

 Login sequence   

  <>   Auth connect
  >>   SNAC(17,06)
  <<   SNAC(17,07)
  >>   SNAC(17,02)
  <<   SNAC(17,03)
  <>   Auth disconnect
  <>   BOS connect
  >>   cli_cookie
  <<   SNAC(01,03)
  >>   SNAC(01,17)
  <<   SNAC(01,18)
  >>   SNAC(01,06)
  <<   SNAC(01,07)
  >>   SNAC(01,08)
  >>   SNAC(13,02)
  >>   SNAC(13,05)
  >>   SNAC(02,02)
  >>   SNAC(03,02)
  >>   SNAC(04,04)
  >>   SNAC(09,02)
  <<   SNAC(02,03)
  <<   SNAC(03,03)
  <<   SNAC(04,05)
  <<   SNAC(09,03)
  <<   SNAC(13,03)
  <<   SNAC(13,0F)
  >>   SNAC(13,07)
  >>   SNAC(02,04)
  >>   SNAC(04,02)
  >>   SNAC(01,1E)
  >>   SNAC(01,02)

FLAP Login Sign On Errors (Temp)

Standard Format Login Errors during Phase 1

These occur in response to the initial Phase 1 login command sent from the client. All Standard Format login errors follow this format. This error command is always in the Command Family 0x04. All variable-length strings are assumed to be 1 byte long when doing position numbers.

Position Data Size Data
1 Word 0x0001
3 Word Screen Name Length (not including null)
5 ASCIIZ String Screen Name that failed (null-terminated)
6 Byte 0x04
7 Word Error Message URL Length (not including null)
9 ASCIIZ String Error Message URL (null-terminated)
10 Byte 0x08
11 Byte 0x00
12 Byte 0x02
13 Word Specific Error Code

The current list of known "Specific Error Code"s:

Specific Error Code Error Msg URL Meaning
0x0001 Invalid Screen Name
0x0005 SN/Pasword Mismatch (Invalid Password)

From Aleksandr Shutko: AUTH_FAILED: server authorization failed response


This is the server error reply for for cli_ident packet. It contain authorization error code (see list bellow). It always come from FLAP channel 0x04. See also channel 0x01 authorization sequence info. Here is known authorization error codes list:

  0x0001   Invalid nick or password
  0x0002   Service temporarily unavailable
  0x0003   All other errors
  0x0004   Incorrect nick or password, re-enter
  0x0005   Mismatch nick or password, re-enter
  0x0006   Internal client error (bad input to authorizer)
  0x0007   Invalid account
  0x0008   Deleted account
  0x0009   Expired account
  0x000A   No access to database
  0x000B   No access to resolver
  0x000C   Invalid database fields
  0x000D   Bad database status
  0x000E   Bad resolver status
  0x000F   Internal error
  0x0010   Service temporarily offline
  0x0011   Suspended account
  0x0012   DB send error
  0x0013   DB link error
  0x0014   Reservation map error
  0x0015   Reservation link error
  0x0016   The users num connected from this IP has reached the maximum
  0x0017   The users num connected from this IP has reached the maximum (reservation)
  0x0018   Rate limit exceeded (reservation). Please try to reconnect in a few minutes
  0x0019   User too heavily warned
  0x001A   Reservation timeout
  0x001B   You are using an older version of ICQ. Upgrade required
  0x001C   You are using an older version of ICQ. Upgrade recommended
  0x001D   Rate limit exceeded. Please try to reconnect in a few minutes
  0x001E   Can't register on the ICQ network. Reconnect in a few minutes
  0x0020   Invalid SecurID
  0x0022   Account suspended because of your age (age < 13)

 00 01   word   TLV.Type(0x01) - screen name (uin)
 xx xx   word   TLV.Length
 xx ..   string   Screen name (uin)
 00 04   word   TLV.Type(0x04) - error page description url
 xx xx   word   TLV.Length
 xx ..   string (ascii)   error description page url string
 00 08   word   TLV.Type(0x08) - authorization error
 00 02   word   TLV.Length
 xx xx   word   Authorization error code (see above)

 00 0C   word   TLV.Type(0x0C) - unknown
 00 02   word   TLV.Length
 xx xx   word   unknown field
 May contain other tlv from the following list

Example SNAC dump with flap header:

  2A 04 C3 2C 00 16 00 01 00 06 37 37 37 37 37 37 *..,......777777
  00 08 00 02 00 05 00 0C 00 02 00 01             ............


These tags are used in the FLAP signon frame to BOS. They appear right after the 4 byte version number.

@MAKE NOTE: Difference between ones used if BUCP is in use and ones if clientLogin or w/e was used

Name Tag Type Notes
OSERVICE__TLV_TAGS_CLIENT_IDENTITY 0x03 string Yet another client name
OSERVICE__TLV_TAGS_LOGIN_COOKIE 0x06 blob Login cookie returned by startOSCARSession
OSERVICE__TLV_TAGS_MAJOR_VERSION 0x17 uint16 (word) Client major version: (1) if the client version is "1.2.3"
OSERVICE__TLV_TAGS_MINOR_VERSION 0x18 uint16 (word) Client minor version: (2) if the client version is "1.2.3"
OSERVICE__TLV_TAGS_POINT_VERSION 0x19 uint16 (word) Client minor version: (3) if the client version is "1.2.3"
OSERVICE__TLV_TAGS_BUILD_NUM 0x1A uint16 (word) Client build number, usually monotonically increasing
OSERVICE__TLV_TAGS_MULTICONN_LEVEL 0x4A uint8 (byte) [Class: OSERVICE__MULTICONN_FLAGS] Should almost always be 0x01
OSERVICE__TLV_TAGS_CLIENT_RECONNECT 0x94 uint8 (byte) Client claims it is reconnecting because it got knocked off


These flags control how multiple instances are handled by the servers and if current sessions need to be bumped off when a new session signs on.

Name Value Notes
OSERVICE__MULTICONN_LEVEL_MULTI 0x01 This is a recent client that understands multiple instances
OSERVICE__MULTICONN_LEVEL_SINGLE 0x03 This is a recent client that understands multiple instances but does not want them

From Aleksandr Shutko: Detailed OSCAR login sequence description

 OSCAR login   

 Login stage I:   <a href="#l0001">Authorization</a>
 Login stage II:   <a href="#l0002">Protocol negotiation </a>
 Login stage III:   <a href="#l0003">Services setup</a>
 Login stage IV:   <a href="#l0004">Final actions</a>
 Example #1:   Login with MD5 based authorization
 Example #2:   Login with channel 0x01 based authorization

 <a name="L0001"></a>Login stage I: Authorization 

     Currently there is two ways to pass authentification in OSCAR protocol. First is FLAP channel 0x01 authorization (password not crypted but roasted), second is MD5 based where password is MD5 crypted. In both ways server could return error or authorization cookie + BOS address. Here is both auth sequences (client<->server):

 1. Channel 0x01 authorization (success)
  <>   connect   Client connects to authorizer server
  >>   cli_ident   Client send login request
  <<   srv_cookie   Server reply via BOS address / cookie
  <>   disconnect   Client disconnects from authorizer

 2. MD5 based authorization
  <>   connect   Client connects to authorizer server
  >>   SNAC(17,06)   Client sends md5-authkey request
  <<   SNAC(17,07)   Server sends md5-authkey string
  >>   SNAC(17,02)   Client sends authorization request
  <<   SNAC(17,03)   Server sends authorization reply
  <>   disconnect   Client disconnects from authorizer

     In channel 0x01 authorization server may replace srv_cookie packet reply via auth_failed packet which contain authorization error code. In MD5 based authorization sequence server always reply via SNAC(17,03) which may contain cookie / BOS address or authorization error code.

     When authorization sequence successfully finishes client has authorization cookie, ip address and port of the BOS server. At this point it should disconnect from authorizer and connect to BOS. This is the point where login stage II (protocol negotiation) started.

 <a name="L0002"></a>Login stage II: Protocol negotiation 

     After authorization client should extract BOS server/auth cookie from reply packet, connect to BOS and send cookie via special FLAP channel 0x01 packet named cli_cookie. In reply server will return list of supported services - SNAC(01,03). Then client should ask needed services version numbers using SNAC(01,17). After that client will receive services version numbers server has - SNAC(01,18). Note that client never shouldn't send snacs to services not listed in SNAC(01,03). It should use service request SNAC(01,04) instead.

 Protocol negotiation
  <>   connect   Client connects to BOS server
  >>   cli_cookie   Client sends cookie
  <<   SNAC(01,03)   Server sends supported services list
  >>   SNAC(01,17)   Client ask for services version numbers
  <<   SNAC(01,18)   Server sends its services version numbers

     After negotiation client should setup current connection. It request rate limitations information via SNAC(01,06). Then server will return connection rate limitations info - SNAC(01,07). At this point client start calculating its rate level on every SNAC it send. Server rate limitations information SNAC should be acked using SNAC(01,08). Now connection ready.

 Protocol negotiation
  >>   SNAC(01,06)   Client ask server for rate limits info
  <<   SNAC(01,07)   Server sends rate limits information
  >>   SNAC(01,08)   Client ack connection rate limits

 <a name="L0003"></a>Login stage III: Services setup 

     Most of the services has limitations which you can request via SNAC(xx,02). For example client should know max_contact_buddies for BLM service. ICBM service has message default limits and client can change them as you need. Client also should send its capabilities list to Location service.

 Protocol negotiation
  >>   SNAC(02,02)   Client ask server location service limitations
  <<   SNAC(02,03)   Server replies via location service limitations
  >>   SNAC(02,04)   Client sends its capabilities / profile to server
  >>   SNAC(03,02)   Client ask server BLM service limitations
  <<   SNAC(03,03)   Server replies via BLM service limitations
  >>   SNAC(04,04)   Client ask server for ICBM service parameters
  <<   SNAC(04,05)   Server sends ICBM service parameters to client
  >>   SNAC(04,02)   Client change default ICBM parameters command
  >>   SNAC(09,02)   Client ask server PRM service limitations
  <<   SNAC(09,03)   Server sends PRM service limitations to client
  >>   SNAC(13,02)   Client ask server for SSI service limitations
  <<   SNAC(13,03)   Server sends SSI service limitations to client
  >>   SNAC(13,05)   Client check if its local SSI copy is up-to-date
  <<   SNAC(13,0F)   Server tell client its local copy up-to-date
  >>   SNAC(13,07)   Client activates server SSI data

     Note that this order is not strict and client can send several requests and then wait for replies. But it should remember about rate limitations.

 <a name="L0004"></a>Login stage IV: Final actions 

     This is last login actions you should perform. ICQ client at this stage set its DC information and status on main connection via SNAC(01,1E). Login sequence finishes by client ready SNAC(01,02) which contain version/build numbers for protocol dlls.

 Final actions
  >>   SNAC(01,1E)   Client sends its DC info and status to server
  >>   SNAC(01,02)   Client READY command

     After SNAC(01,02) client command server start broadcast client presence to its buddies and client start receiving messages and presence notifications. ICQ client should also check for offline messages.