Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) has held early stage discussions to buy a stake in Time Warner Inc.'s (TWX) America Online (search) Internet unit, a source briefed on the matter said on Friday.

The source characterized the discussions as "informational" and said it was far from the level of depth AOL has reached with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) or with Google Inc. (GOOG).

Google and Comcast Corp.(CMCSA) are also mulling a joint investment in AOL.

A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment on "speculation or rumor." Time Warner declined comment.

Reports of the discussions with Yahoo have appeared in various media reports since the New York Post (search) first reported Microsoft's interest in AOL in September.

The Internet media network joins a crowded field of suitors, which now view AOL as the prize that could catapult the winner into the leading market position on the Internet.