Richard MacManus has a blog post entitled AIM Pages - AOL breaking down the Walled Garden where he writes

I'm told by my sources that it's still in the testing phase, nevertheless it *is* live on the Web. There is a lot more functionality to come though. For example PaidContent wrote recently:

"Unlike walled-garden Classic AOL, AIM Pages is built on giving users ways to collect and connect to various parts of the web — and each other — from one base. For instance, users can add a flickr module. “Our approach is not to get you to leave flickr but to super-set your stuff from flickr,” explained Parkins. Other modules focus on AOL content, like the Top 11 list from AOL Music; options will be limited at first with more modules being introduced on a rolling basis."

As Mike said, the design is very modular - and that extends not only to internal AIM Pages functionality, but also to external web services modules. From the AIM Pages homepage, click on 'Create your profle'. You will be taken to your profile page, click 'Add Modules' and then you will see a 'Module Gallery' at the top-left. The most interesting part in that gallery is the 'Under Construction' selection. It currently features modules like delicious, netflix and youtube - but there's a whole lot more to come!

Check out AOL's test 'playground' I Am Alpha to see what I mean. In there you'll see modules for popular web services such as: MySpace, YouTube,, Flickr, Amazon, eBay, MapQuest, Netflix, AOL apps, RSS feeds, plus plenty of other test modules. Now admittedly these are all very alpha quality modules (as the name implies), but it shows that AOL is ahead of the curve in integrating external services into its social networking offering.

This sounds like regurgitated press release pablum. Both MSN Spaces and Yahoo! 360 allow users to integrate external services into their social networking offerings via RSS/Atom feeds. If you go to you'll see the RSS feed for this blog included in a sidebar. It is a nice touch to special case the feeds from specific services to provide a richer experience but it isn't a revolutionary step like Richard MacManus implies. 

As for whether this implies 'breaking down walled gardens', I don't see how it does. Can I export my AOL social network to MySpace? Can I talk to my AIM buddies from Yahoo! Messenger? Instead what this does is acknowledge that walled gardens exist. AIM Pages can't get people to export their data from these services so they do the next best thing by republishing the content via RSS feeds.

I sometimes joke at work that we could save a ton of money by having people upload their photos in Flickr and then use the RSS feeds to power the photo album feature in MSN Spaces. Yahoo! pays the image hosting costs while we get to show the ads on people's spaces. I bet we could even do all this via the Flickr API without people having to leave our user interface. Would that also be considered breaking down walled gardens? 

I expect a lot of services to rethink their use of RSS/Atom feeds as such repurposing becomes more popular.