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AOL 9 to include Web log tools

America Online is set to take Web logs squarely into the mainstream by releasing tools for blogging over AOL Instant Messenger or the phone in its upcoming AOL 9 update.

America Online will integrate Web log software into the next version of its service this summer, giving its 34 million subscribers a way into the increasingly popular medium.

The online personal journals known as Web logs, or "blogs," have taken off in popularity over the past few months. AOL's software will take advantage of recent developments in the technology to allow people to "audioblog" over the telephone. Subscribers will also be able to update their blogs, which typically include references and links to other Web sites and blogs, via AOL Instant Messenger.

The company is calling the tool "AOL Journals," because it said its users find the term "blog" confusing. It plans to introduce the tool as part of AOL 9, the next version of its Internet service, which will be available in preview form this summer. The tool will let users update their blog by phone, over an instant-messaging connection, or by the more familiar method of filling out a form on a Web page.

Users will be able to post pictures to a blog from AOL's "You've Got Pictures" service, which is designed for storing and viewing digital photos.

The phone update will post blog entries as MP3 files, and will be available only to subscribers to the "AOL by Phone" service, available for an extra fee on top of the usual monthly subscription charge. The instant messaging updates will only work over AOL's internal messaging service--not with standalone instant messaging software available to nonsubscribers.

The blogs will support the Really Simple Syndication (RSS) protocol, allowing them to be displayed outside of a Web browser by an RSS-based news-reading program.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London.