AOL Opens Up IM Network to Partners

America Online announced on Thursday the AOL Enterprise Federation Partner (EFP) program, which builds on the company's instant messaging services by providing partners with certified access to its IM network. In turn, partners will develop real-time communications solutions for enterprise customers that employ AOL technology.

In the lead up to the announcement, AOL added four partners to its roster that will provide enterprise customers with secure client access to AIM's stable of proprietary messaging services. These messaging services include AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), ICQ, Netscape and Apple iChat; with an amassed at-work user base of over 14 million Screen Names.

Antepo, Jabber, Omnipod and Parlano are among those certified under the terms of EFP.

"We are extremely pleased to welcome Antepo, Jabber, Omnipod and Parlano to our Enterprise Federation Partner program," said Brian Curry, vice president of AOL's Premium and Subscription Services. "Federation with the AOL Messaging network will help our partners speed the flow of business communications, enabling their customers to realize new efficiencies and increase productivity."

The EFP partners supply federated enterprise client software that has certificate-based and encrypted access to AOL's messaging network. The AOL Federation Gateway routes and translates traffic between SIP/SIMPLE, XMPP and AOL's own proprietary messaging system - meaning that customers can share presence and instant messages across messaging services.

In addition, AOL is preparing to provide the customers of its EFP partners with additional value-added services such as business-to-business clearinghouse services and what AOL refers to as "advanced communications features."

AOL rival Microsoft recently developed a public instant messaging connectivity (PIC) add-on for Office Live Communications Server 2005 and unveiled a new communications client called Office Communicator that integrates IM, voice, video, telephony and Web conferencing capabilities.

While it courts the enterprise, AOL is also striving to build an audience on the open Web by licensing out its community and presence to third parties. To this end, AOL will formally unveil a new AIM plug-in architecture by the end of 2005 promising that it will be "turnkey and simple," for partners and independent developers to build services.

AOL has already announced partnerships with Intellisync, CareerBuilder, Ruckus Network, and Thomson Financial. The company also promises a deeper integration with its own Internet properties as its portal strategy unfolds.

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