AOL, Lotus to test IM interoperability

America Online Inc. (AOL) named its first instant messaging system interoperability test partner Tuesday: IBM Corp. subsidiary Lotus Development Corp. The two companies said they will begin a trial testing communication between their messaging systems, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and Lotus Sametime.

The test is part of AOL's federally mandated progress toward allowing its AIM and ICQ applications to communicate with other instant message (IM) systems, including Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Messenger and Yahoo Inc.'s Yahoo Messenger.

As a condition of approving AOL's merger last year with Time Warner Inc., the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required AOL to open its IM applications to allow communication with rival systems. AOL assured the FCC in late July that its progress toward interoperability is on track and testing with other systems will begin within the next few months.

AIM currently has more than 100 million registered users. IBM and Lotus do not break out user numbers relating to Sametime installations, according to a spokesman.

AOL and Lotus said the interoperability test will evaluate how AIM and Sametime communicate with each other on a server-to-server basis using the Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), one of the IM standards currently being considered by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

No time frame is available for testing to be completed, said AOL spokeswoman Kathy McKiernan. She wouldn't comment directly on whether AOL plans to announce tests with other IM systems.

"This is our first trial, and this is where the focus of our energy is," she said.

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