AIM Phoneline open to developers

AOL invites developers to tweak hardware and software for the Internet phone service, launched earlier in year.

AOL is calling on software developers to help build AIM Phoneline, the Internet telephony service that it launched earlier this year.

The company has announced the release of three application programming interfaces, or APIs, that will enable interested developers to tweak both the hardware and software aspects of AIM Phoneline. The APIs, which AOL plans to make available this fall, address such things as ring tone customization, compatibility with USB add-ons and functions that can determine the relevance of a call.

AOL, which also owns a Vonage-like voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service called TotalTalk, launched AIM Phoneline in May. The service enables users of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) to register for a local telephone number and take unlimited inbound calls, with voice mail delivered directly to e-mail in-boxes. For a monthly fee, AIM Phoneline can also accommodate unlimited outbound calls.

This isn't the first time AOL has offered AIM to developers. This March, facing increased competition from rivals such as eBay's Skype, Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger, AOL inaugurated , a toolkit that allowed developers to customize the AIM software.

The embattled online-service provider says the Open AIM experiment had been a hit, with more than 50,000 developers registered, and cites it as one of the reasons for expanding developer contributions to the fledgling AIM Phoneline.

Many instant-messaging clients that formerly offered only text chat or PC-to-PC voice functions are now trying to capitalize on the rise of IP telephony, which has been boosted by the success of eBay's Skype.

Earlier this summer, Microsoft replaced its MSN Messenger with the new Windows Live Messenger, partnering with Verizon Communications for VoIP features. Yahoo Messenger with Voice left beta mode in late July and now can boast of more than 180 developer plug-ins.

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