London (Sept. 10, 2003) -- In a move that could move the popular instant messaging craze from friendly chatting to a key business tool, Reuters and America Online announced that they have inked a deal to provide access between their instant messaging services.

The new partnership will link major commercial banks, investment firms and mutual funds through the widely used consumer software. The partnership marks the first time that AOL has allowed its instant-messaging network to communicate directly with other networks.

Under the agreement, an upcoming version of the Reuters Messaging client will allow Reuters Messaging users to communicate with customers that use AOL’s AIM and ICQ services, and AOL instant messaging users will be able to add Reuters Messaging users to their AOL Buddy Lists. The deal is set to take effect in the first quarter of 2004.

A bridge between the AOL and Reuters protocols will translate outgoing and incoming messages so each client can read them, the companies said.

AOL, the Internet arm of AOL Time Warner, has the world's largest instant messaging network, with some 60 million active users per month on its ICQ and AIM services, while Reuters Messaging has about 50,000 active users per week, Reuters reported.

According to a report by The Washington Post, AOL and Reuters plan to charge brokerage firms and others a per-person fee for providing secure, encrypted instant messages that can be stored, as regulators require.

-- WebCPA staff

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