Reuters, AOL IM users will be able to 'talk' next year

Early next year, users of Reuters Messaging will be able to directly communicate with users of America Online's AOL Instant Messenger, paving the way for easier communications between the two instant messaging systems

Early next year, users of Reuters Messaging will be able to directly communicate with users of America Online's AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), paving the way for easier communications between the two instant messaging systems. The move should be especially welcome in the financial services industry, where Reuters Group has a growing customer base.

Under a deal announced Tuesday, the two companies said that the next version of the Reuters Messaging client, to be released in the first quarter of 2004, will allow Reuters Messaging users to directly access and communicate with people who use AIM and the separate ICQ instant messaging service.

AOL instant messaging users will also be able to add Reuters Messaging users to their AOL Buddy Lists.

The terms of the deal aren't being announced.

The ability to directly message users of AIM was the most significant request from current and prospective users of Reuters Messaging, said Kyle Arteaga, a spokesman for London-based Reuters. Demand for that capability was especially high on Wall Street, where Reuters' secure IM is widely used.

"Every single person on Wall Street was asking for this," Arteaga said, especially at smaller brokerage firms where free, consumer-level IM clients such as AIM meet their needs and minimise their costs. "They've all just been on AOL for a long time, so establishing that connection was the No. 1 priority that we had."

Many potential customers of the Reuters IM client, which includes security and auditing features needed in the financial industry, "have been waiting for this to happen before making their implementation decisions," Arteaga said. "I think this will be a catalyst for the financial industry in using IM."

The two IM clients will work together through a software translation layer, instead of at the server level. The deal calls for AOL to create a gateway that will allow messages between Reuters and AIM systems to be encrypted so they can be sent back and forth securely.

AIM handles about 1.5 billion instant messages daily.

Bruce Stewart, a senior vice president at AOL, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL Time Warner, said the deal with Reuters expands an existing partnership that will bring improved IM services to users of both services.

Reuters Messaging was launched last October and now has registered users in more than 2,500 companies and 120 countries, according to Reuters.

Pricing for the new Reuters IM software has not yet been announced. Other new features will include capabilities for group messaging and structured text messaging, Arteaga said.

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