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March 06, 2006

AOL Opens AIM To Third Parties

Messaging Pipeline

America Online said today that has opened its AIM instant messaging environment to developers and integrators, allowing them to build IM and presence capabilities into their applications or services.

Called the Open AIM initiative, AOL for the first time is inviting software developers, online communities and service providers to build plug-ins for the new Triton client and custom communications clients based on AIM.

The AIM SDK features support for proprietary protocols, but not the full AIM source code. It is available today on a . The site will also feature interesting interesting plug-ins and applications developed using the SDK.

Potential applications might include a client that is more geared to voice messaging or a one that includes a more visual experience such as a 3D avatar, or a game vendor that builds messaging capabilities directly into the game, said Justin Uberti, chief architect of AIM. "It could also be used in a photo application where you could send a photo to buddy and comment on it in real time," he said.

"Also, a device manufacturer could build a plug-in to the Triton client for PC-to-PC talk, since VoIP support is already built into Triton," said Jamie Odell, director of product management for AIM.

The first example of software built with the AIM SDK is the recently announced AIM Pro, a custom AIM client with built-in business collaboration tools, being co-developed by AOL and WebEx Communications Inc. Expected in Q2 of this year, AIM Pro will be delivered in two editions: a professional edition for individuals and small to mid-size businesses, and an enterprise (EIM) edition with centralized administrative controls for larger corporations.

The SDK will be offered free to qualified developers, with on caveat, according to Odell. If the plug-ins or custom clients are to be sold or included in software sold to enterprise customers, "we're going to want to talk to you first," he said, referring to a limited commercial use license fee. Likewise, if the SDK is used to augment a Web site that grows traffic to 250,000 hits a day or 2 million hits per month, "that’s a threshold where we'd want to have a tighter relationship with you," he said.

Third parties looking to the AIM SDK for enterprise uses should contact

Other licensing limitations prohibit developing anything to block or disable advertisements that are routed via the network or including clients outside of the AIM network.

AOL is also building security features directly in to the SDK. "We're making security a first-class citizen in the toolkit," said Uberti. "All communication will be encrypted via SSL. We use the MFS toolkit for SSL, same the Firefox [browser]." The move to deliver a free AIM SDK, follows a similar move by Microsoft, which last summer posted tools for developing applications around its Live Communications Server (LCS). Like AIM Pro, and IBM/Lotus Sametime, LCS is positioned for business users with more security and archiving capabilities built in.

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