Dan York gets it right when he says:
Does accepting SIP connections at your SIP proxy constitute an “API”? Does providing SIP termination services to the PSTN constitute an “API”?
AOL calls it their “Open Voice Program” but it’s really just a way to use your “AIM Call Out” account for placing calls to the PSTN using SIP. The rates are competitive for a retail service (e.g. 1.7 cents per minute to the US).
Is this an “API”? Hardly. It’s a SIP to PSTN termination service – there are hundreds of those out there already (albeit none with such a recognizable brand). As someone else said “Not only is it not a developer story, it’s not even a good SIP termination story.”
However, it is significant for SIP – we now have a household brand not referring just to “VoIP” but referring to “SIP” – the standards-based protocol for VoIP, something neither Skype nor Vonage has done. SIP means interoperability and that’s a good thing for users and the VoIP ecosystem at large. A brand as big as AOL providing awareness for SIP and promoting interoperability is terrific – nobody else is doing it.
To illustrate what I’m talking about, we tested it with PhoneGnome and it works fine (good call quality on test calls we made so far). It really is SIP and it really is interoperable. Simply go to your My PhoneGnome page and add a new ITSP under Features / Low Cost Internet Calling / Edit / [Add Internet Calling Service] / Manual SIP Settings and on that page use settings as shown below:
It’s important to note that we have never been able to do this so with Skype, even though the service has been out for four years or more – they could have offered this years ago. We have our GnomeLink for Skype Plug-in, but the AOL service is much easier to setup and use – we had the service working in just a few minutes, seamlessly from our home phone – no computer needed to make calls and no separate “bat phone”.
One downside of the AIM Call Out service is that the people you call get a weird AOL number as the caller ID (the same thing happens with SkypeOut). I have a support request in to AOL to ask if there is a way to have it deliver my phone number as the caller-ID so people will actually know it’s me calling (whether that means they are more, or less, likely to answer the phone is another matter).