iChat Can’t Connect? Getting the Dreaded “User Has Declined Your Invitation” or Error -8? Here’s Why!
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Are you one of those people for whom iChat audio and video chatting used to work, but suddenly it has stopped working, for no apparent reason? Are you getting “user has declined your invitation” or “communications error” errors, or maybe even the dreaded “error -8”? Have you changed nothing at all on your end, but suddenly you simply can’t audio chat or video chat with some people – or maybe anybody?

Well, you’re not alone.


We recently ran into this issue ourselves. We could connect with almost nobody, although oddly we were able to connect with colleagues who worked for Apple.

Our iChat error logs looked like this:

VChat started with ID xxx.
0x69f8920: State change from AVChatNoState to AVChatStateWaiting.
xxx: State change from AVChatNoState to AVChatStateInvited.
0x69f8920: State change from AVChatStateWaiting to AVChatStateConnecting.
xxx: State change from AVChatStateInvited to AVChatStateConnecting.
0x69f8920: State change from AVChatStateConnecting to AVChatStateEnded.
Chat ended with error -8
xxx: State change from AVChatStateConnecting to AVChatStateEnded.
Chat ended with error -8

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After banging our head against the wall for days, doing everything everybody recommends (including, as Apple suggests, opening wide ports 1024 to 65535), I finally figured it out.

The secret was not in with whom we couldn’t chat – the answer lay with with whom we could chat.

But let me back up.

 

I used to be able to audio and video chat with people using iChat. Then one day, it just stopped working. I couldn’t connect, and I started getting the errors.

Now, I knew that I had changed nothing on my computer. As I started searching for an answer, I read post after post from people having the exact same issue, saying the exact same thing. People going through all kinds of contortions to figure out what had changed – firewall? Ports open and closed? Router? When they knew that they had changed nothing.

Well, if all of these people had changed nothing, but suddenly couldn’t connect through iChat, what had changed?

It hit me.

Something in the AIM infrastructure itself must have changed.

Then a second thing hit me:

All of the people with whom I could still connect – the only people with whom I could still A/V chat with iChat, were on .Mac accounts!

I tested this, and sure enough. I can audio chat and video chat with no problem if the person on the other end is on a .Mac account. But if they are on an AIM account, all bets are off.

While this is all circumstantial, I’m 99% sure that I’m right – something has changed in the AIM protocol or at the AIM portal, and that change – whatever it was – has hosed iChat A/V.

So there’s your answer to the conundrum of why your iChat suddenly can’t do audio or video chats. Test it yourself with a friend on a .Mac account.

And then cry.

Me? I’ve started using Skype for my audio chats.

Update! 1/2/07: It turns out that this is all only part of the story, and now, here is the rest of the story!

Here is the problem: iChat uses SIP (“Session Initiation Protocol”) for audio and video chatting. What all that means isn’t really important right now, but what is important to know is that SIP does not work well if both ends (i.e. the computers of both chatters) are behind NAT (“Network Address Translation”). NAT, among other things, is used to help keep network connetions secure. And more and more computers are behind NAT. Older versions of NAT don’t work with SIP at all, while some newer versions of NAT do play nicely with SIP.

If you are finding that iChat used to work for you to audio and video chat, but suddenly stopped working even though you changed nothing – and especialy if you are finding that you can still audio and video chat with some people, but not others, the odds are good that you are experiencing a SIP/NAT problem.

That is what happened with me. My server was running NAT, but not a version of NAT which could accommodate SIP. This meant that if the person on the other end was also behind NAT, we couldn’t audio or video chat. But if they were not behind NAT (or perhaps were behind a newer version of NAT which could play nicely with SIP), then we could.

There is a protocol called UPNP (“Universal Plug and Play”) which allows applications which use SIP to automatically work with NAT. In fact, it was specifically designed to help address the “two clients each behind NAT” problem. Both iChat and some routers support UPNP.

So today I replaced my server with a new router – a Linksys WRT54G Wireless G router – which has UPNP and allows SIP and NAT to happily co-exist.

And suddenly, like magic, I can audio chat again with folks with whom I could not.

So there was the answer. If you are behind NAT, you’ll want to make sure that your NAT can play with SIP.

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The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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9 thoughts on “iChat Can’t Connect? Getting the Dreaded “User Has Declined Your Invitation” or Error -8? Here’s Why!
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  1. Guys (and Gals) if I understand correctly, DON’T blame Apple, AIM/AOL, or the router manufacturers. The problem is in the network infrastructure itself, i.e. the way the network connections are being administered and implemented. When the infrastructure changes at your office, service provider, or colleagues’ offices, certain kinds of messages may fail to get through. If the Internet all the way from your desk to your friends’ desks were a wide open message system that allowed all traffic from any source, things would always “just work.”
    Unfortunately vandals and crooks of various kinds have ensured that this model for the Internet is no longer viable – thus a variety of complicated security fences lie along the way. You have to make sure the various roadblocks are opened just enough to allow the desirable traffic through – which is getting increasingly complicated!
    Good luck

  2. Sounds to me like Apple need to work on IChat so everyone can use it. If both people use Airport Extreme & it still doesn’t work, than there needs to be a firmware update. Another person suggests the Lynksys Router solved his problem. Another person says it did not solve HIS problem. All the stuff I’ve read & tried in the last week have not helped one bit, I can IChat Video with only 2 people so far. All others, I get “Communication Error”. It has to get simpler than this. Again, I Port assigned on my Modem & Router as well as disabled Firewalls on Modem , Router & Mac Mini (Leopard).

  3. This stuff is beyond me. I can accept video chats from someone (AIM/ichat) but cannot initiate them. We get the “disallowed” error, even if they accepted my request. We are both using airport extreme. My firewall is set to allow specific, and ichat and ichat agent is selected. Please help! I’m going out of my mind.

  4. Same problem here… can initiate an audio chat from trillian to ichat without problems…. but can’t initiate it the other way, ichat to trillian…

  5. I have a Linksys WRT54G router- I enabled NAT filtering and still got an error -8. What’s the protocol to making this work? Thinking of just using Skype.. thanks for your help.

  6. wow.. I don’t hav ethe energy to put my brain cells to work to really comprehend everything you described and… I’ll trust you about the SIP/NAT dealie and hope ur not just promoting the linksy router (I USE AN ARPORT..How doe sthat fit in?) Ur expereience is every simolar to mine and others so…. Sounds like AIM screwed apple? US? Whats the advantage? CAN Apple do anything to resolev it?? Thanks Lexi

  7. Sir, greetings to you for the Happy New year 2007.
    I am asking you, please help me, unlimitted lotters winning informations of particulars forwarding to me. I don’t know what is true/false. How to send those information to you, If don’t feel plz send me which was falses lotters from UK and Africa,etc countries running in bed way. Please reply to me immediately. Thanking you , Yours faithfully, M.V.Ratnam.

  8. Yes that’s well and good but is there a solution??

    “I’ve started using Skype for my audio chats.” – what are you doing for video chat?

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