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AOL, Reuters wired for IM

The media and financial markets content provider signs a pact with America Online to provide access between the two companies' instant-messaging software systems.

Media and financial markets content provider Reuters signed a partnership with America Online on Tuesday that provides access between the two companies' instant-messaging software systems.

Reuters reported that under the strategic alliance, users of its messaging software would be able to view and communicate with individuals who are logged onto any of AOL's IM systems, including its AOL, AIM and ICQ services.

The two companies reported that interactivity between the Reuters Messaging and AOL IM services would be made possible through the creation of a virtual "bridge" between the applications' respective protocols and by translating outgoing and incoming messages so that users of the client software can communicate.

The companies said AOL's domain and authentication applications would work alongside Reuters' directory and privacy tools to identify Reuters users on AOL networks, and vice-versa. This will enable customers to utilize a single sign-in for both systems, the companies said.

The deal offers more evidence that AOL is beginning to push interoperability between its coveted IM network and other systems after years of resistance. AOL struck a partnership last year connecting AIM users with Apple Computer's iChat instant messaging service. AOL has also been testing interoperability between AIM and IBM's Lotus SameTime, currently the most widely used corporate IM product.

The interoperability deals have come as AOL seeks to undo a condition imposed by the Federal Communications Commission on the 2000 merger between AOL and Time Warner. That condition bars AOL from creating advanced instant messaging services, such as videoconferencing, unless the company establishes interoperability between its IM network and those of rivals.

Earlier this year, AOL petitioned the FCC to revoke the condition, arguing that things had changed substantially since the deal was struck, with Microsoft and Yahoo taking significant share in a market that was once almost completely controlled by AOL.

Tuesday's deal could further raise the interoperability ante. Reuters Messaging launched in October 2002 as the first test of Microsoft's Greenwich instant messaging server software, subsequently renamed Microsoft Windows Real Time Server 2003.

Reuters has said in the past that it expects the service to be opened up to users of Microsoft's consumer MSN Messenger product through Microsoft's pending MSN Connect program, raising the possibility of a de facto interconnect between AIM and MSN Messenger users.

Executives at Reuters played up the wide exposure its IM users would gain through the AOL partnership.

"Our goal has been to expand the reach of our end users and enable them to integrate IM and presence within the workflow of financial communities," David Gurle, executive vice president at Reuters, said in a statement. "Our partnership with AOL is a key step in this direction."

AOL continues to push its dominant instant-messaging service into high-profile partnerships and into the products of enterprise software makers. Earlier this year, the company announced a deal with PeopleSoft to integrate AIM into PeopleSoft's business applications to enhance real-time collaboration for corporate users.

Also on Tuesday, Reuters competitor Bloomberg announced that it has entered an agreement to partner with FaceTime Communications, which makes software for secure instant messaging. The media company said it will work with FaceTime to advance capabilities of its new Instant Bloomberg messaging software. Bloomberg entered into the agreement as a result of "new interpretations of electronic communications regulations," the company said.