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AOL Connects VoIP Service To AIM

AOL plans to launch a PC-based Internet telephone service closely tied to its AIM instant messaging service, a move that would expand the Web portal's options for advertisers.

AIM Phoneline, due this month, would be available as an ad-supported free service for making PC-to-PC calls. While also being able to receive calls from traditional phones, users would have to join the paid service in order to make calls to a landline or wireless network.

AIM Phoneline is another example of AOL attempting to leverage its large instant-messaging user base to launch new ad-supported services. AOL leads the U.S. instant messaging market with 41.6 million subscribers. In comparison, Yahoo, which has the second largest network, has less than half the subscribers of AIM at 19.1 million, according to web metrics firm ComScore Networks. MSN has 14.1 million subscribers.

John McKinley, president of digital services and chief technology officer for AOL, said the company plans to make money from Phoneline through search-related advertising, as well as display ads. Initially, subscribers can click on an ad to call the sponsor. Later this year, AOL will provide an ad-supported directory service for looking up businesses and residential numbers.

Besides ads, AOL also plans to sell ring tones and service packages that would include routing of incoming calls to mobile phones or voicemail access via an 800 telephone number.

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