Hello, Anyone Home?

Bob Woods

Updated · Apr 04, 2002

PresenceWorks Inc. said it has signed a pact with AOL Time Warner Inc.’s America Online (AOL) unit, where the technology developer now has the ability to embed Web sites with presence-enabled technology that’s based on AOL’s Instant Messenger (AIM) application.

Terms of the pact call for Alexandria, Va.-based PresenceWorks to offer AIM-enabled presence for both consumer- and business-oriented Web sites that fall outside of the AOL network of sites.

“Getting bona fide, certified, contractual love from AOL to propagate presence in this way is a good thing,” PresenceWorks Founder and CEO Matt Smith said in an interview.

With AIM and PresenceWorks, consumers using major Web sites that adopt this technology will now be able to see presence information, which lets them know who is online and available to chat via instant messaging. This could include a Web site’s operators, customer-service representatives or even a reporter or editor.

The presence information, which comes from a user’s Buddy List, is embedded into the directories and databases driving software such as affinity Web sites and consumer Web directories. With this technology, users can experience the benefits of presence and IM in new locations entirely beyond the Buddy List. The presence information of unlimited contacts can be displayed on these Web Sites so users can see online or offline status alongside existing contact information — within the directory listings of a community site, for instance.

Of course, AOL looks forward to bringing even more customers to its instant messaging products, which are already the most widely used on the Internet. “Presence is the key to making AIM use ubiquitous and this new service will help consumers enjoy AIM more widely,” said Raul Mujica, vice president of AOL’s AIM.

On the enterprise side, for example, the new pact can mean that a human resources application can keep track of everyone in a corporate directory, without having to build a second application to perform the same function. With the technology springing from the pact, a company also does not have to build two separate directories — one normal corporate directory and one “presence” directory. The presence status is piped into the regular directory.

“We pipe the presence to their back office,” Smith said. “We pipe it to their underlying directories, databases and so on. They populate it up through their applications and their UIs as they see fit.”

In terms of instant messaging’s growth, Smith called today’s announcement a milestone movement. “The Buddy List presence is now being shown outside the Buddy List. It’s a little bit like when AOL had instant messaging as a feature of AOL proper, and they cut off a piece of it and brought AIM to the Internet. Now they’re evolving one step farther by saying that presence is now going to land in non-AOL properties.”

Smith is also quick to point out that with the pact AOL is entering into non-AOL content areas and Web sites for the first time.

PresenceWorks makes its money from a combination enterprise server fee and licensing fee, along with an access fee, Smith said. The company already has a few deals in the pipeline, including one “well-known” Web site, but Smith said he could not comment further on any pacts.

Besides AIM, PresenceWorks’ products enable users to see when contacts are online and available to chat using the instant messengers of ICQ, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.

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