AOL Calls On IM-based VoIP

As part of the kick off of its new IM-based telephony service, AOL is sponsoring a contest to build new applications that take advantage of new AIM APIs .

The Open AIM program already has 50,000 registered developers working on building custom plugins, communications clients and mashups that access AOL’s instant messaging network.

At the upcoming VON Fall conference, AOL will introduce a trio of new APIs for building AIM Phoneline applications. They will offer personalized ringtones and ringback tones, support for USB devices and phone adapters, and call management functionality.

The latter will offer caller ID and allow for context and relevance-based call handling that could treat each call differently. Some calls can be routed to voice mail, others to AIM, or to email. Voice mail is saved as an audio file and forwarded as an attachment in email.

While AOL plans to release Open AIM software, the contest is designed to gin up interest in developing applications, said AOL.

“We recognize we can’t be the ultimate innovators under the sun,” Ragui Kanel, senior VP of voice services for AOL, a Time-Warner  company, told “So we wanted to open up the service so people could bring in their own apps and devices and innovations to enrich the service.”

To help promote the service, AOL offers a storefront that allows developers to show off their software, he said.

The Open AIM SDK is a free download. A panel of AOL judges will vote on the submissions, which will be taken up to November 30. The winners will be announced on January 31, 2007. First prize is $3,500 and second prize is $1,000.

Alec Saunders, CEO of iotum, developer of a VoIP solution that handles incoming calls, praised AIM for the libraries it’s offering developers.

“What’s really attractive about their approach is they’ve positioned themselves to be the richest provider of communication services out there. By inciting developers to provide new services on AIM phone line, they will offer a selection that other network operators cannot,” he said.

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