RealTime IT News

EarthLink, MindSpring to Distribute AOL Instant Messenger

While Microsoft Corp. squabbles with America Online Inc. about open standards for instant messaging protocols, two national Internet services providers Friday struck deals with AOL to co-brand its instant messaging service.

MindSpring Enterprises and EarthLink Network Friday announced agreements under which they will distribute a co-branded version of AIM, AOL's Instant Messenger service.

With the co-branded AIM software, over 1.3 million EarthLink members and 1.2 million MindSpring subscribers will be able to trade personalized online messages in real time with family, friends and business colleagues.

In addition, EarthLink and MindSpring members will become part of the AIM community, which includes 17 million AOL members and another 28 million registered AIM users.

Garry Betty, EarthLink president and chief executive officer, said the company desired the deal with AOL in order to provide instant communication services to their members.

"We are very pleased to offer our members the convenience of instant messaging," Berry said. "We believe that the EarthLink version of AOL Instant Messenger will be a major enhancement for our members' Internet experience.''

Mike McQuary, MindSpring president and chief operating officer, said joining AIM users worldwide was a great deal for MindSpring members.

"This AIM agreement with America Online represents a major benefit for MindSpring members. Not only will they now have the ability to instant message with each other, but also with AIM users worldwide."

Bob Pittman, AOL president and chief operating officer, said allowing AOL, EarthLink MindSpring users to communicate instantly with friends and family has made it one of the most popular features on the Internet.

"We are happy to welcome MindSpring and EarthLink to the growing list of AOL Instant Messenger partners. AIM is one of the most popular features on the Internet, and we're delighted to be able to work with both MindSpring and EarthLink to bring quick, seamless and secure instant communication to their online communities."

Apple Computer, Inc. struck a similar deal with AOL at the end of July. AOL's ability to co-brand their AIM services with independent national ISPs may undermine Microsoft's attempts to establish an IM protocol for the industry.

Late last month senior executives at Excite@Home Inc., Microsoft, Activerse Inc., Tribal Voice Inc. , Prodigy Communications Corp., Yahoo! Inc., AT&T and Infoseek asked AOL to put an end server blocks on instant messaging interoperability.

The companies are advocating quick passage of the Internet Engineering Task Force's instant messaging and presence protocol, which could be ready for review in December.

In the letter to Steve Case, AOL president and chief executive officer, the industry leaders asked the online giant to make its instant messaging servers open to other vendors.

Due to security and privacy issues for AOL members, the company has refused to make their AIM service interoperable, without establishing a co-branding agreement safeguarding AOL's instant messaging servers.

Part of the problem that initiated the IM debate, was that Microsoft's MSN operators did not ask AOL for access to their AIM servers before launching their interoperable instant messaging service in mid-July. A quick volley of AOL blocks and MSN patches fueled debate about AOL's AIM proprietary networks versus open standard IM protocols.

Industry analysts agree that AOL has replied to the executive's request for interoperable access to their AIM services. All an independent ISP need do to gain access to AOL's 43 million registered AIM users is strike a deal to co-brand their AIM services.