AOL is to integrate its instant messenger service with free local telephone numbers. Through this integration, it is intended that its AOL Instant Messenger service will merge its Internet presence with traditional communications services. Once launched, the service will give AOL users a phone number which can be connected through another computer or a regular phone. Naturally, incoming calls are free but users have to pay to make calls to regular phones.

"We think this is really a great complement to existing communications behavior," Mr. McKinley said. One example is the ability for consumers to get text alerts on their handsets if someone calls the AIM number and leaves a message. Voice mails are recorded and can be retrieved through an AIM or AOL email account.