AOL has acquired instant-messaging and chat software vendor Userplane, which has licensed its chat technology to more than 100,000 websites and online communities.

The terms of the deal, completed last week, were not disclosed. Userplane, with its software used in more than 25 countries, counts,, Marvel Comics and American Honda Motor among its customers.

The acquisition will allow AOL to expand the reach of its AOL instant-messaging service, to focus more on providing social networking services, and to target specialised communities, AOL said.

Userplane offers its web-based chat and instant-messaging services under three business models. There is a monthly licensing model in which customers pay fees based on use, a free model in which Userplane sells all the advertising for the customer's site, and a hybrid model through which licensed clients can place advertising sold by Userplane on their site and share in the proceeds.

Userplane users spend an average of about 20 minutes using its technology per visit, AOL said. The company targets 18-to-35-year-olds as its primary demographic.

Userplane and its 12 employees will continue to be based in the Los Angeles area. It will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL.