AOL Opens Up its AIM Community

Refocusing its vision for AOL Instant Messenger, America Online is endeavoring to revitalize the service by opening up its community and presence to third parties.

It is AOL's desire to architect AIM in a way that is, "turnkey and simple," for partners to build extended services including plug-ins. AOL will also look inward to grow and build an audience on the open Web by closely connecting AIM with other AOL Internet properties.

It may be too early to tell whether or not AOL's new strategy will be successful, but the company has already landed some partnerships on the Web. In its effort to prove that AIM is no longer just a proprietary service, AOL has announced partnerships with Intellisync, CareerBuilder, Ruckus Network, and Thomson Financial.

One of the first deliverables is AIM Sync by Intellisync, which integrates AOL Instant Messenger presence awareness into Microsoft Outlook contacts and is exposed throughout key points of the software.

Next up is presence integration with CareerBuilder's online recruiting Web site. Job seekers can now register their AIM Screen Name with their resume to provide prospective employers with a real-time connection. A user's online status will be indicated by the Running Man icon.

AOL is also hoping to create a ruckus on campuses nationwide. AIM presence will be added across Ruckus Network's online communities that service colleges and universities. Student customers are encouraged to chat about popular interests, exchange music playlists and will receive a special Ruckus Screen Name, as well as customized Buddy wallpaper and Buddy icons.

Ruckus communities feature entertainment programming such as music and video subscriptions.

Lastly, Thomson Financial has turned to AOL to deliver new "efficiencies" to its online traders. Thomas is now offering Thomson AutEx with integrated AIM presence over its Thomson ONE desktop.

Major partners aren't the only focus for the company's new AIM vision. AOL is seeking to enlist independent developers to build extended services and points to ICQ's Xtras functionally as an example of its growing success with ISVs. AOL is working to provide a plug-in architecture by the end of this year.

"Our goal is to offer instant access to the AOL Instant Messenger service and the familiar AIM Buddy List feature everywhere consumers are and want to be, from their email application to their favorite online communities," said Chamath Palihapitiya, vice president and general manager for AIM and ICQ.

"As the real time communications service of choice for tens of millions of Americans, the AIM service brings dynamic interactivity to the sites and services that people use everyday."

Overall, AIM will play an important role in AOL's newfound portal strategy. In telephone interview, an AOL spokesperson told BetaNews that the company is at, "Just a beginning of where we intend to take the product," and promised deeper integration with other AOL Web properties.

This plan has already made progress. In November, AOL heralded in a streaming media video service called AIM Video, which integrates into the AIM Today window. AIM Video features music videos, movie trailers, entertainment news, celebrity interviews, and sports highlights.

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