AOL plans to launch a new program called AIM Money on Tuesday that lets programmers write applications that run in the AOL Instant Messenger buddy list--and lets programmers get a cut of any resulting revenue.
The move is made possible through use of an open interface in AIM 6.8, another new development. Version 6.8 also includes "mini-applications" that run at the bottom of the AIM buddy list window; 150 new CBS radio stations in AOL Radio; and restoration of the ability to save and import buddy lists, a feature that helps move a to a new IM identity.
As the computing industry has discovered the possibilities of applications running on the Internet, companies are rushing to curry favor with programmers hoping those companies' online offerings. Other examples of the idea are Facebook, Google and other members of the OpenSocial consortium, and the Yahoo Open Strategy.
Ultimately, richer applications can mean more users, more activity, more advertising--though the more lucrative elements of the strategy is largely rhetorical than real at this stage for many. AIM, however, has a well-populated list of active users, unlike many start-ups.
AOL announced the interface in March with its Open AIM 2.0 developer program, which lets programmers write software such as the mini-applications that plug into AIM's own chat software, bots that can communicate with humans on the network, Web-based AIM interfaces, and software that show when AIM members are available online through the service.
The revenue for programmers comes through sharing money generated by an advertisement that can appear along with programs that use the new AIM features. AOL serves advertisements using its Platform-A ad network and pays developers through PayPal.
To use the AIM API (application programming interface), developers have to use two of five AIM elements. The ad is one. The other four are bundling the AIM browser toolbar; providing access to AIM Expressions that customize the AIM interface; displaying the AIM Dashboard start page; and displaying buddy info.