The abbreviation A.L.I.C.E. stands for Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity; it was chosen because the computer that ran the first version of the software was called Alice.
Development began in 1995. The program was rewritten in Java beginning in 1998, resulting in the current version "Program D." (A C++ version also exists.) The program uses an XML DTD called AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language) for specifying the heuristical conversation rules. It is released under the copyleft license GPL.
The A.L.I.C.E. open source project includes over 300 contributors from around the world. The main contributor and original author is Richard Wallace, a computer science Ph.D. who lost his academic positions because of his manic depression.
In November 2002, two instances of the bot were set to talk to each other, with results showing A.L.I.C.E.'s weaknesses.