RealTime IT News

'Whimsy' Widgets Arrive For AIM Mashups

In an expansion of its Open AIM effort, AOL is offering all kinds of "Whimsical" ways for Web developers to do widgets and mastermind new mashups.

The latest Web-based application programming interfaces  from AOL are a set of widgets, called AIM Whimsicals, that enable AIM's Web integration with other sites. Developers can now use AIM's tools to integrate instant messaging presence and messaging capabilities directly into their sites.

This isn't the first time that AOL has enabled some form of AIM presence- awareness capability for developers. But the AIM Whimsicals are new, said Stephen Benedict, Principal Product Manager for AOL.

Whimsicals include a Buddy List widget to display a user's BL and mash it up with other services, said Benedict, who also leads AOL's Open AIM program.

It also features an IM widget that allows users to send or receive IMs directly from a Web page, a "Get Info" widget to display a user's away message, and AIM Profile. In effect, the widgets give users much of the same functionality they have with desktop IM clients, such as providing online, idle, or away time, only it's integrated into a Web page.

AOL already offers a Web widget called AIM Remote, which displays a user's presence and allows visitors to launch the desktop AIM client to send an IM to that user.

The licensing terms for the new Web components of Open AIM are much the same as they are for the rest of the Open AIM tools. Benedict noted that individual developers are free to monetize consumer-focused offerings, while enterprise-focused offerings require an agreement with AOL.

"However, at this time, we do not allow Open AIM tools to be used to build multi-headed IM clients or to facilitate communication over a wireless carrier's network," Benedict said.

The Open AIM initiative, launched in March of 2006, initially enabled developers to build their own AIM client and plug-ins for AOL's IM application.

To date, AOL claims that the Open AIM effort has yielded more than 50,000 registered developers. So what's been a hit with them?

"If I had to choose one, I'd probably say that the AIM Presence tool, which enables users to display their online availability anywhere on the Web, has been most widely adopted," Benedict said.

"This is in line with our expectations, in large part because it's a very simple API to use and integrates into a Web page."

AIM's Whimsicals aren't likely to be the last new effort in the Open AIM initiative.

"We believe the concepts of presence, identity, communication and collaboration are key themes that will continue to drive the evolution of applications and services in this space."