AOL Wants Users to Get This Message

Instant messaging is both wildly popular and mostly profit-free, but America Online appears determined to change the second half of that description.

On Thursday, AOL rolled out two new pay-per-minute services tied to its AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) software. One lets AIM users run telephone conferences by sending instant messages to people on their buddy lists. The other lets them set up Web meetings in the same way. In both cases, the organizer of the phone or Web conference pays a fee based on the event's duration and number of participants.

"Being able to launch these communications directly from your buddy list does away with a lot of the trouble of rounding people up, setting up PINs and passwords and scheduling times to get together," said Brian Curry, AOL's director of AIM network services.

The new services (www.aimatwork.com) are part of AOL's effort to push its instant messaging deeper into the workplace so it can yield more revenue. So far, most of the money generated by AIM -- a free program anyone can download -- has been through advertisements, but they are not big moneymakers.

AOL is the market leader in instant messaging, and reports that 14 million of the 36 million people using AIM in the past month did so in a work environment.

"We already know that users often start with an AIM exchange and move to a voice conference or Web meeting," Curry said.

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News source: Yahoo! Tech

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