Web messaging services company Userplane has been acquired by AOL, it was was announced this morning. This company powers the interactive features (chat, video chat, video profiles, etc.) on most online dating and many social networking sites.
Terms remain undisclosed, but there are rumors that this was a “very large deal”. Founded in LA in 2001, Userplane uses Flash and Ajax to offer video, audio and text chat in the browser, in single or multiple chat rooms. Those video and audio chats can be recorded using the company’s Webrecorder application. Its target audience has been social networking and dating sites but it’s technology has been deployed across 100,000 sites in 25 countries. Big customers have included Friendster, Date.com and Red Bull. Investor Jeff Clavier reports that the ad-supported version of Userplane recently broke the billion monthly ad impressions and has further discussion on the history of the company and this deal.
Userplane says that it hopes to work with a system of federated identity leveraging the AIM brand and intends to speed the pace of its innovation post-acquisition. I just spoke with Mike Jones, Userplane CEO, and he told me that one of the first ways the partnership will take shape is that users registered with Userplane client sites (like Tagged) will be able to be contacted via AIM by other site users even when they themselves are not on the original site. Extending presence through AIM, off-site and thus building a greater sense of community to users of Userplane supporing sites. Makes sense, but doesn’t address what AOL will do with Userplane.
Now that nearly everything is free at AOL, a compelling user experience could be key to maintaining the kinds of audiences advertisers will pay for. Recordable multi-room video chat could be one solid way to bring users in to AOL properties.
A very early TechCrunch profile of Userplane is here.