AOL deal will provide instant AIM

A deal between AOL and PresenceWorks will enable users of Web portals, shared-interest sites, auction sites and corporate...

A deal between AOL and PresenceWorks will enable users of Web portals, shared-interest sites, auction sites and corporate applications see and contact participants logged onto America Online's AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).

As Instant Messenging is becoming more widely used users want to be able to contact another user immediately, according to Matt Smith, chief executive officer of PresenceWorks,

On Web sites that use PresenceWorks' software to provide a link to AIM, any current AIM user will be able to find out if another AIM user is available and start chatting with that user via AIM.

The AIM software must be installed and running on each user's machine. Users without AIM can click on the button to send a one-way instant message suggesting another method of communication.

The agreement is the first such deal by PresenceWorks, which is now in discussions with other instant messaging vendors for similar arrangements, Smith said. Under the deal with AOL, PresenceWorks can license its software for any Web site or application.

For smaller Web sites, PresenceWorks will build and host the function itself, Smith said. AOL, a division of AOL Time Warner, will work closely with PresenceWorks in finding sites that want to link users to AIM, said Catherine Corre, communications director for AOL Web Properties. AOL has seen demand for this type of feature from Web sites, Corre said.

The PresenceWorks software can be integrated into the user database software for a Web site or a corporate application. It lets operators add a field for each user on the database that indicates whether the user is logged into a particular IM service. The software also lets others contact that user via IM, through the Web site or corporate application rather than through the IM service's graphical interface.

PresenceWorks' software would allow a site to display IM information about all its registered users, and entice users to pay for a membership level that lets them send instant messages to other visitors just by clicking a button on the site, Smith said. Site operators have the flexibility to let users opt in or out of the service and choose who can contact them or see their IM availability.

Initial interest is expected to come mostly from Web site operators, Smith said.

The software can also be integrated into contact manager applications, such as Microsoft's Outlook, that could list IM contacts by their real names instead of their IM handles. Putting AIM in other applications and on Web sites would also allow for more AIM contacts than the maximum-size AIM Buddy List, Smith said. An AIM Buddy List can include as many as 200 names, according to Corre at AOL.

PresenceWorks offers a beta version of its Outlook plug-in at its Web site.

Smith at PresenceWorks acknowledged security concerns about tying AIM into Outlook, which several e-mail worms have used to forward themselves to all users on a contact list.

"We've done a great deal of work making sure the instant-messaging presence we propagate doesn't create any new vulnerabilities," and have worked hard to design the add-on so worms cannot take advantage of it, he said.

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