I mentioned this earlier but AOL is increasingly looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of AIM, their instant messenger. On May 16th, AOL will announce the launch of AIM Phoneline service that provides a free local phone number to any AIM user for receiving free incoming calls. The service will allow users to call each other free if both are online, typically using headsets or microphones attached to their computers.
Though the AOL concept is not new, AOL Phoneline has the potential of overtaking existing players as it plans to provide the telephone number for free.
Skype charges about $4 a month for a phone number. Yahoo Messenger 7.5 also provides a personal phone number (with any city area code) for receiving incoming calls to their PC from regular phone lines and mobile phones but at a price.
Other services charge about $30 to $40 a year for a telephone number to receive incoming calls, and about 2 cents a minute to place phone calls from a computer to an ordinary telephone line.
AOL plans to make money both from displaying advertisements to users and from the outbound calling charges and additional services, like ring tones and call forwarding.