AOL Targets API v1.0 for AIM Phoneline by Year's End
By Robert Liu
TMCnet Executive Editor
During a well-attended session at the VoIP Developer (News - Alert) Conference here, Ragui Kamel, senior vice president and general manager of voice services at AOL, outlined the timetable for opening the API to the public. The news was first reported last week by TMCnet.
“We will formally launch the initial API v1.0 in the not too distant future,” Kamel said.
AOL expects to have specifications for v1.0 by early September and will demo and test feature sets with partners throughout the October time frame. By late October, the company is hoping to have a public beta available with the goal of launching API v1.0 by December, he said.
In the meantime, AOL will be actively courting the developer community. And in spite of the fact that AIM is used by 40 million screen names, company officials on Wednesday addressed developers with a modest sense of urgency.
“We're looking for a lot of input from the development community,” Kamel said.
The business model relies on some level of revenue-sharing with developers that are engaged with AOL; however, no specific percentages were yet defined. AOL promises to help promote the developers’ wares; but again no plans are set on whether feature sets would take the form of integrated product upgrade cycles or via a forum of downloadable plug-in modules.
Perhaps the biggest drawback for AOL, though, is arguable its plans to charge developers a “nominal” fee for the software developer kits (SDK) to license the API. In its defense, company officials stated that fee is being considered only to turn away “less serious” developers.
To be sure, Kamel said his group, which also is the caretaker for AIM Talk within AOL, plans to form a steering committee with key developers to better understand what dynamics and economics will sustain a viable ecosystem. To that end, even the business model is up for re-negotiations.
AIM Phoneline, a free service that enables AOL Instant Messenger users to receive incoming phone calls from ordinary landlines, was introduced in May. And over the first three months, company officials believe the rollout was well-received based on the level of adoption.
The product offers anyone in the the ability to obtain a Direct Inward Dialing (DiD) local calling number, which could prove handy in a variety of scenarios. The free version enables users to receive PSTN calls over their PC (or wherever the AIM client is running) or sends the caller into voicemail. The paid version takes the form of an unlimited offer for $9.95 per month, permitting users to make calls anywhere in , and over 30 countries. The paid model offers more features such as call blocking, nomadic e911 (News - Alert) and caller ID alerts.
Users can also integrate the service into a cell phone to get SMS alerts for voicemails. They can also register to "Do Not Call" national registry in one click and report unwanted calls in another.
The product is currently not SIP-enabled; however, that is a central issue for upcoming discussions. AOL also currently has no plans to federate the service with other platforms like Skype (News - Alert) or Yahoo to enable interoperability. But Kamel said he has spoken informally with about the possibility of interoperating with Yahoo IM.
Robert Liu is Executive Editor at TMCnet. Previously, he was Executive Editor at Jupitermedia and has also written for CNN, A&E, Dow Jones and Bloomberg. For more articles, please visit Robert Liu's columnist page.