Last week in Silicon Valley I had a meeting with former AOL VP Chamath Palihapitya. Chamath mentioned, at the time, that AOL was becoming more open. Then, this morning, AOL’s announcement of their new Open AIM strategy hit my mailbox. The nuts and bolts of the program are pretty simple. As a developer, there are three ways you can play with AIM:
Subscribe to AIM presence. You can do this directly from the AIM cloud with either a straight bit of HTML code, or an XML interface.
Develop AIM plug-ins, which are applications that are hosted within the AIM client.
Develop AIM clients — applications which use AIM, and behave like AIM, but replace the AIM client.
An even more interesting development will be AIM PRO(r), the premium communications client AOL is developing in conjunction with WEBEX.
The whole kit and kaboodle is being made available with a flexible developers license that allows you to have up to 250,000 commercial users per day using the AIM platform. AOL is making it possible for you to develop a pretty substantial user base without having to pay them any fees. Good for them!
There are a couple of interesting angles to this. First, on the developer front AIM as traditionally been a laggard. You’ve been able to build custom clients, and develop plug-ins for some time with MSN, for instance. However, with this announcement, they’ve caught up, and maybe even passed MSN. To my knowledge, you still can’t subscribe for presence, for instance, in MSN. That’s huge. It’s a feature that will help make iotum a much more rich application. So far MSN hasn’t indicated when they will be able to do this.
Second, and perhaps more interesting, is that AOL is starting to explicitly look at business users. There are huge numbers of business users on IM systems, globally, but AOL will be the first company to build a product specifically targeted to those users. It suggests that they are aligning themselves with hosted VoIP solution providers, whereas Microsoft’s LCS is aligned with the PBX vendors.
Some of the other commentary in the blogosphere:
Susan Mernit: play with me, but not with others. Susan has noted that the AOL license forbids the creation of multi-headed clients — products like Trillian which target multiple IM systems. What they don’t forbid, interestingly enough, is server based federation systems. Susan says "Open AIM has Web site at http://developer.aim.com/, with tools and documentation; can’t wait to see what the first mash-up is."
AOL’s Justin Uberti has blogged about Open AIM. He says: "At last! Today is a big day for our team and AOL as we proudly announce the "Open AIM" platform at http://developer.aim.com. In addition to our AIM Presence web service, we are now offering the AIM SDK to all developers. With the AIM SDK, developers can write plugins for the AIM Triton and AIM Pro clients, or write their very own custom AIM clients."
And Marc Canter is very excited, and has a bunch of ideas for what you could do with this.
Over all, this looks like a very positive announcement, and potentially has lots of ramifications.