AOL's Open AIM is an often over-looked social networking platform, mainly because instant messaging isn't thought of these days as a form of social networking. Perhaps, on its own, IM isn't social networking, but clearly it is an important feature -- both Facebook and MySpace have it, and AOL is planning to integrate its 80 million-strong AIM network into bebo as soon as possible. This week AOL announced the winners of its Open AIM developer competition. Below are the 9 winning applications that can improve your AIM experience.

AOL ran its $100,000 competition through TopCoder, which we just mentioned in our guide to the crowdsourced workforce. Of note is that the top three applications in the OpenAIM contest came from the same user -- who took home $30,000 for his efforts. Perhaps a new hire for AOL?

  • IM Remote - Screen to screen desktop sharing over AIM.
  • IM Loud: This plugin reads IMs out loud to the user.
  • IM Whiteboard: Use AIM as a whiteboard and simultaneously draw with buddies.
  • LinkPreview: Thumbnail link previews when hovering over a link sent to you in chat.
  • Free2IM: Possibly one of the most useful applications in the entire bunch, Free2IM provides automatic, on-the-fly language translation back and forth over IM. That's something we had on our wish list last March when Google released its AJAX Language API.

  • Infomess: Chat and share videos at the same time.
  • Share-A-Map: Share and collaboratively edit MapQuest maps. Giving someone directions will never be the same...
  • PopsChat: Bound to score points with TopCoder users, this plugin brings AIM chat and features to the TopCoder Arena (a chat and messaging area).
  • FeedReader: An RSS feedreader for AIM.

You can view the entire list of eligible submissions on the competition page.