AOL will release the programming intefaces to its instant messaging software so external developers can embed AIM into websites, the company has announced.

AIM's product manager, Stephen Benedict, has announced a new set of Web-based APIs and "widget" mini-apps that will allow programmers to build AIM features into sites. For example, the "presence" API would allow a user to display on his website his AIM status, or an "away" message, plus his profile. With the "IM Windows" API, users will also be able to embed an AIM chat window on a Web page and use it to send and receive messages.

AOL plans to release four APIs and three widgets in a few weeks as an extension of the Open AIM Initiative, announced in March. The overall goal is to encourage development of AIM plug-ins, the creation of AIM user interface applications and the integration of AIM presence information into websites, giving the company an edge of other IM rivals.

AOL's efforts are in line with a wider trend among providers of online services like Yahoo and Google who realise that allowing external additions to be made for their products is a very effective method of security market share.