AOL's venerable AIM instant-messaging service may undergo a major transformation, thanks to the launch Wednesday of Open AIM 2.0. Virginia-based AOL said the upgrade will give "the developer community the freedom to access the AIM instant-messaging network with unprecedented ease."
Open AIM was originally launched in a more limited form in 2006, resulting in more than 235,000 third-party developers signing on. Among the plug-ins that have been developed are apps to send money and automatic notifications when friends post new pictures.
The service is also adding AIM Money, a new advertising revenue-sharing platform. Kevin Conroy, AOL executive vice president, said these efforts will empower "the Web community to leverage the AIM messaging network."
AOL said developers will be able to integrate AIM into Web sites and applications with a free Software Development Kit and APIs for third-party chat services, including mobile, enterprise and international uses. The APIs are open source, and a new AIM Gallery is offering third-party applications.
Web-messaging providers meebo and eBuddy have already signed up. A "live interaction platform," meebo.com said it has 25 million monthly users. eBuddy uses an aggregated interface to offer free chat for 12 million global visitors who have AIM, Google Talk, MSN, MySpace or Yahoo Messenger accounts.
The 2.0 version of Open AIM also provides access to the OSCAR protocol, the proprietary method used by AIM for instant messaging and presence information. Developers will be able to build full-featured AIM services for use on platforms that could also host other chat services. OSCAR was previously a closed protocol, although some developers reverse-engineered it.
'One More Attempt' to Monetize
The SDK and APIs can also be used to create a single messaging application that can support multiple chat services or custom software for enterprise or mobile use, but the apps must remain free and open.
For applications reaching less than 100,000 simultaneous users, developers are asked to use at least two of the five leading AIM features. Those include a display ad with AIM Money revenue sharing, the AIM Toolbar, access to AIM Expression with its wallpapers and buddy icons, Buddy Info, and the AIM Dashboard as a start page at launch. Apps with more than 100,000 users will need to integrate AOL's ads as part of the revenue sharing.
Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with JupiterResearch, said the AIM Money program is "one more attempt to monetize IM," but he noted that "no one has done a great job on that" even though IMs are used by millions.