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AOL Opens AIM for $$

AIM

When AOL opened up its instant messaging platform with OpenAIM a few years ago, the idea was to expand the development ecosystem for the popular IM program.

Today, AOL is expanding the AIM system with dollars with its AIM Money program, new features in OpenAIM and a new AIM public client.

The new initiatives mark the continued evolution of AOL from a walled garden to a more open development methodology, and where third parties can integrate with and profit from the AOL instant messaging experience.

"The AIM Money program allows developers to monetize application that are built on top of the AIM platform and are able to tie it in seamlessly and can easily track how much they're making," Stephen Benedict, director of AIM developer and consumer services at AOL, explained to InternetNews.com.

The AIM Money program is available to OpenAIM developers that are building their own customized AIM clients or integrating AIM into their applications.

Here's how the money part works: The program will place display ads of different sizes in developers' applications. Benedict noted that the display ads are powered by AOL's advertising unit, Platform A . There is, however, a catch with AIM Money.

"In terms of filtering the actual ads themselves that are displayed, that currently is not a functionality that we are providing," Benedict said.

In addition to the new AIM Money program, AOL is also expanding the functionality of OpenAIM itself with the new AIM Module technology.

"AIM module is an iteration on the existing AIM plugins API ," Benedict explained. "Whereas before you could access all the capabilities of the AIM platform one of the biggest needs from developers was they wanted to be able to integrate application or UI directly into aim buddy list. With AIM module it is now possible to not only display the UI but to still have access to full capabilities of the AIM platform."

The original OpenAIM 1.0 effort started back in 2006. It currently boasts approximately a quarter million (250,000) developers that have signed up for the program.

Earlier this year, the OpenAIM program expanded with the launch of OpenAIM 2.0, which eased licensing restrictions and opened up AIM to open source implementations.

The new OpenAIM initiatives are timed with a new release of the AIM 6.8 instant messaging client in mind. Benedict said real-time IM functionality is one of the new features in AIM 6.8.

With real time IM, the message shows up as you type. Additionally AOL has included the ability to save a buddy list to a local device as well as the ability to add a stored buddy list to a live one.

AOL is driving the expansion of the AIM platform with its own marketplace needs.

"We have increased the resources that we have around supporting the ecosystem and we see where the pain points are we are going to aggressively seek them out and meet them," Benedict said.

AOL's developer ecosystem efforts include a redesigned developer Web site, new forums and active engagement with developers on any issues they confront.

"The place that we're at now with publishing the protocol, allowing multi-headed clients and open source libraries and now the ability to put UI directly in the buddy list that addresses a lot of concerns we've heard of late," Benedict said. "Some of the things that we're looking to build on is the ability to allow developers to further integrate with the UI. With what AIM modules can do is a great first step but perhaps there is more that we can do there."

"We're working side by side with developers out there and we're monitoring the feedback, hearing their concerns and as we hear them we will address their concerns."