AOL and Yahoo separately on Tuesday made changes to the Internet telephony features within their Instant Message (IM) services.
The moves signal that both Internet giants believe that providing fee-based VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) features is important to offer their users, and to generate revenue via their mostly ad-supported IM services, AIM and Yahoo Messenger.
"The reality is that the AIMs and Yahoo Messengers of the world understand that just providing [text] chat down the road won't be enough, and that they need to provide [good-quality] voice and video communications," said Rebecca Swensen, IDC research analyst for VoIP services.
This market for personal, or consumer-oriented, Internet communication players is led by Skype, which has the largest subscriber base worldwide, she said. There's a related but different market for more formal residential VoIP services that run into a home, with players like Vonage and Comcast.
Although Skype also offers IM text chat, it entered the market primarily as a provider of voice communications, unlike Yahoo Messenger and AOL AIM, which started focusing on text chat and later added voice capabilities, Swensen noted.
Eager to propagate the use of AIM's Call Out service, which currently can only be accessed via PCs loaded with the AIM client software, AOL has released APIs (application programming interfaces) for this feature.
This Call Out feature lets people place calls to landlines and mobile phones from within the AIM interface for a fee to more than 200 countries. AIM also offers a free PC-to-PC voice chat feature called AIM Talk.