AOL (America Online Inc.) is enlisting prominent blogging, media and social networking Web companies to encourage the implementation of AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) presence technologies throughout the Web.
AOL is providing bloggers, podcasters as well as home and small business users with the same capability free of cost as part of its segmentation strategy, according to AOL officials.
To this end, AOL will soon announce partnerships that it has made with Facebook Inc., LinkedIn Inc., Six Apart Ltd. and Glam.com to broaden the exposure of its presence services among millions of prospective users.
Presence is the prevailing way for users to indicate their online "state" and is typically integrated into real-time communications applications. Its use is especially heavy in the world of mobile computing.
One of the first of AOLs commercial partners out of the mill is FaceBook. FaceBook is a popular social networking community for college students that has in excess of 4 million registered users and more than 1,500 participating campuses throughout the United States.
With the addition of AOLs presence services, FaceBook users now have the option to share their AIM ScreenName with their peers and display their communicative state from within their profiles.
AOLs partnership with LinkedIn increases the tally by an additional 3.8 million users. LinkedIn is essentially a FaceBook for grownups designed to further its users professional development, permitting them to seek out business opportunities, jobs and assemble new networks of contacts.
But AOLs biggest score may be its partnership with Six Apart, which is a vendor of Weblogging software as well as the proprietor of the LiveJournal online community. The deal adds 11 million bloggers to AIMs base of users.
Lastly, Glam.com—a fashion Web site—is adding AIM access to its e-commerce site.
Small businesses also qualify for the license and may use presence as a solution to improve availability and dialog with customers.
"AOL could open up AIMs utility to more small businesses through the new changes," said Joe Wilcox, a Senior Analyst with Jupiter Research Inc. "Most small businesses are just a few employees. One person, one or two businesses is a fairly typical scenario."
"Hypothetically, Jack Driver owns his own car service, and hes on the road all the time. He has an informational Web site, because he understands that most people use search," Wilcox said.
"Adding AIM presence means that people could see that he is online and available—responsive—because hes signed on from his cell phone.
"So the consumer looking for a lift to the airport can IM Jack, who can IM back (assuming hes not driving) or call them," he said.
The AIM presence would add "another level of touch, of relationship, because it says, Im here, and Im available," added Wilcox.
Other prospective users are individuals that publish blogs and podcasts online. For that demographic, AOL had its lawyers cook up a free distribution license for a program called "AIM Presence."
Anyone that desires to participate in the program may simply paste a line of HTML code into their Web page, and AOLs familiar Running Man will indicate their "state."
AOLs courtship with third parties on the Web began in February 2005 when it teamed up with CareerBuilder.com and Thomson Financial, enabling job seekers to be placed in contact with prospective employers in real time should they choose.
Thomson Financial began to integrate AIM presence across its Thomson ONE desktop, providing what it called, "new efficiencies," for traders.
Also in February, AIM presence was added to Ruckus Network Inc.s online communities, which, like FaceBook, services colleges and universities.
Prior to that, AOL partnered with Intellsync Corp. to extend presence to Microsoft Outlook.
Since that time AOL has instituted the AIM EFP (enterprise federation program), opening up certified access to its IM networks.
This was done to seed application development of third party federated enterprise client software that employs AOL technology.
EFP client software provides certificate-based, encrypted access to AOLs messaging network. Users may share presence and instant messages across messaging services.
This is possible because AOLs Federation Gateway routes and translates traffic among SIP/SIMPLE, XMPP and AOLs proprietary messaging systems.
AOL is not alone in its desire to be everywhere that its users are. Thus far, Microsofts competitive response to AOL and other rivals has been to introduce a toolkit that it hopes will encourage developers to embed its presence services, IM and call-control functionality into their software.
The toolkit, officially dubbed Presence Controls for Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, plugs into Visual Studio.
Microsoft has not yet instituted a program like AOLs AIM Presence that targets the Web at large, but has made it possible to code MSN Messenger presence into blogs and HTML Web pages.
Whats more, Microsoft has integrated presence into business applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office Communicator, formerly known by its codename "Istanbul."
Additional information about AIM Presence can be found at the programs Web site.