AOL swings doors to its IM service wide open

Open AIM 2.0 marks the first time AOL provides nearly unfettered access to its instant messaging platform, a move that was welcomed by analysts.

The effort will provide developers with SDK's and API's to integrate with AIM, and will remove the usage restrictions that denied developers full access without having to hack in.

On top of these development changes, the company also introduced an offering which shares advertising revenue with developers. Called AIM Money, it is expected to launch next month.

"Today, we're putting a stake in the ground, opening our network up wider than anyone else and empowering the web community to leverage the AIM messaging network in bold new ways," executive vice president Kevin Conroy said.

Open AIM first launched in 2006, although the API's offered at that time only allowed for the setting of one's online presence, the sending and receiving of IM's from a webpage, the display of the buddy list, and usage of AIM Expressions.

Now, developers have access to the full OSCAR protocol, the back end of AIM. This essentially means any third-party IM application now has implicit permission to access AOL's network.

In fact, two of the companies AOL had once been fighting against, meebo and eBuddy, have signed on to the Open AIM 2.0 initiative. It's likely in the coming weeks that more of Open AIM's 235,000 third-party developers will also take advantage of the new offerings.

AOL is setting some requirements in order to participate in the program. An application needs to include at least two of five feature requirements to be considered for the program: the display of an ad to appear alongside AIM, with a revenue share to be provided using AIM Money; bundling of the AIM Toolbar; provide access to AIM Expressions, including wallpapers and buddy icons; display Buddy Info; and/or display the AIM Dashboard as a start page at launch.

The company will also offer a contest through May 6 for the most innovative IM applications. AOL says it will award $100,000 in prizes.

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