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FCC allows video on AOL messaging

The FCC will now permit America Online to transmit video entertainment over its Instant Messaging (IM) system. The move ends a restriction imposed in 2001 when the commission approved the merger of AOL and Time Warner Communications.

The FCC's 3-2 vote was along party lines. AOL Time Warner had been aggressively lobbying the FCC to allow the use of instant messaging to promote its video content.

The restriction was originally implemented over fear of giving AOL and Time Warner too much power to dominate news and entertainment over the Internet, and thus lock out smaller competitors. Instant Messaging is one of AOL’s most popular features, dominating the IM market with a 60 percent. Since the merger, now considered one of the greatest failures of the era, AOL has struggled to maintain its leadership position among IPSs.

To date, AOL has not allowed its instant messaging system to work with competing systems, such as Microsoft’s MSN Messenger service or Yahoo’s Messenger. As a result, users of the different systems cannot communicate with each other. When it approved the merger, the FCC said it would need to see convincing evidence that AOL’s Instant Messaging dominance had significantly lessened.

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