AOL Opens Its VoIP APIs to Developers

Time Warner’s AOL division rolled out open voice APIs earlier this week to make it easy for developers and device makers to integrate the company’s AIM Call Out service into the hardware and software used to make phone calls over the Internet.

AOL said that the Open Voice APIs will allow its VoIP service to run on softphones and SIP-enabled devices, as well as cell phones with Wi-Fi connectivity.

Call Out, which features the ability to make calls to landlines and cell phones, is AOL’s fee-based counterpart to its AIM Talk service, which offers AIM users free computer-to-computer calls. AOL employs a different pricing model than traditional phone services, selling prepaid talk allotments in units as small as $5.

The move follows AOL’s opening of its hugely popular instant messaging program to developers, and echoes many of the announcements rival portal Yahoo has been making about opening its core services to developers.

Just as with Yahoo, openness for AOL is a company mission. “Amongst all of AOL we’ve been challenged to open up,” Brent Newsome, AOL’s director of voice services, told “Every product is working on bringing things out into the open.”

AOL has not yet made APIs available for the free Talk service. Newsome said the holdup there is about user privacy. Since all users of the free service create full accounts AIM accounts, AOL is looking to team up with an existing VoIP service provider to ensure that the rollout of an API for Talk does not result in the user base getting slapped with a torrent of spam or exposed to security vulnerabilities.

Newsome said that AOL is in active talks with a few VoIP providers about a partnership for an open API for Talk, which he hopes will be available this year.

At present, the APIs will only offer outbound calls through Call Out. Asked when inbound service would be added, Newsome said “Soon,” adding that he preferred not to be pinned down, but made it clear that it was a priority.

Unlike the Open AIM API, which required developers to choose from a list of a few stipulations, such as including ads or displaying AIM buddy icons, no such requirements exist for the Voice API.

“What we really want is people to develop with the APIs as unhindered as possible and think of applications that we might not think of,” Newsome said.

In addition to its instant messaging service, AOL currently offers APIs for developers to build AOL e-mail applications into their sites, as well as APIs for its Mapquest mapping property, Truveo video search and other features parts of AOL’s suite of services.

Adapted from an article originally published on

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