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AOL puts its IM standard to the test

AOL follows through on its vow to submit a standard for instant messaging to a review board. Does this signal a change of heart?
Written by Margaret Kane, Contributor

America Online has submitted a proposal for interoperable instant messaging to a standards body studying the issue.

AOL followed through on its vow to submit a standard to the Internet Engineering Task Force, which is collecting drafts to try to work out a common protocol for instant messaging.

While AOL’s draft is one of several submitted to the standards body, the move does signal a change in the company’s stance on instant messaging. The company has said it intends to work with the standards body, although industry watchers have been skeptical.

AOL has steadfastly resisted attempts by third parties to make their systems interoperable with its popular AOL Instant Messenger program. Between AIM and its ICQ service, AOL dominates the emerging IM market.

That dominance has caught the eye of government regulators. A group of 43 companies recently sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission in the US, complaining about AOL’s practices, especially in light of its forthcoming merge with Time Warner. Both commissions are now looking into the matter.

The proposal submitted by AOL Thursday is based on a server-to-server design that is used by the company's AIM service. The ICQ service operates on a peer-to-peer basis.

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