Tag Archives | AIM

Thoroughly Modern AIM


I use my AIM instant-messaging account every day, but I can’t remember the last time I used the AIM software. Instead, I use iChat, Meebo, Imo.IM, and other third-party clients that work on AIM’s network. AIM’s app itself has long felt like software that goes all the way back to 1997 and has been getting more bloated ever since. Which it has.

Until now. AOL is launching a preview of an all-new AIM today, and it has very little to do with the creaky old one except that it works on the same IM network. It’s so all-new that AOL even dumped its venerable “running man” stick-figure–who, let’s face it, screams “Old AOL that used to send us trial discs”–in favor of a hip little bot as its mascot.

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AIM AV: Absurdly Simple Video Chat

AV by AIM, the Web-based video chat service that TechCrunch wrote about when it was supposed to be an AOL secret, is now public. And it’s worth checking out. The service’s defining feature is how exceptionally easy it is to get going–you don’t need an account, and you don’t need any information about or from the people–there can be up to four of you–who you want to chat with. All you do is send them a bit.ly-like short URL that AV provides when you initiate a chat. They click on it, and you’re all in the same room.

(The biggest complication that I and one of my fellow chatters had was that AV requires a more recent version of Flash than the one we had.)

How’s the quality? Well, when I checked it out with two pals, we agreed that it’s “good enough.” Picture quality was not bad at all, but it was occasionally a bit out of sync with the audio. (I was on crummy hotel Wi-Fi, which probably didn’t help.) When we tried chatting using Apple’s iChat, the IM client built into OS X, we found that the video didn’t look as nice, but was better synchronized with the audio.

Since AV uses Flash, we wondered if that meant it would work on Android devices that support Flash. It doesn’t–or at least didn’t work on Acer’s Iconia Tab when one of my friends tried.

AV is free and doesn’t carry ads, and for now, at least, it really doesn’t have very much to do with AIM. You can send the short URL via AIM, and the whole thing probably works best if you’re IM buddies with whoever you want to chat with in the first place, since you need an alternative means of communication to arrange the AV session. It’s not going to replace more ambitious approaches to video communications, but it is fun.


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AIM Gets More Social

AIMI use AOL’s instant-messaging network all day long, but I’m not sure when I last used the AIM software itself (with the exception of the iPhone version). I’ve associated it with feature bloat, annoying ads, and a sort of old-timy, Web 1.0 feel. So I long ago switched to other clients that support the AIM network (Apple’s iChat when I’m on a Mac, GAIM when I’m on Windows, and the Web-based Meebo anywhere and everywhere).

But AOL showed off new desktop and iPhone versions of AIM this morning at TechCrunch50. The new AIM is distinctly less clunky and annoying, and it aims to be not only an IM client but also an aggregator of social networking info (aka your “lifestream”) from other services, too. The new versions officially launch next week, but betas for Windows and Mac are available right now and the $2.99 paid iPhone version is live on the App Store.

AIM guy with Twitter logoI’m trying the Mac beta, and it’s a Mac AIM client I’d actually use (hey, I’m chatting in another window even as we speak). It seems to lack some of the irritations that drove me away long ago, like ads popping up without warning. As for the social networking features, AOL has added support for Delicious, Digg, Facebook, Fickr, Twitter, and YouTube. It combines them all in a tab called Lifestream, lets you view all of them in one river of updates, or one service at a time, and permits you to broadcast your AIM status to other services whenever you update it. It also displays photos and videos from your pals directly in the AIM window.

There aren’t many things harder to do than elegant integration of disparate social networks–actually, I’m not sure if anyone’s really nailed it yet–and AIM’s implementation, in this beta at least, is imperfect. I’m not sure why you configure networks in your browser rather than in AIM preferences, for instance. And if you’re the type who loves high-powered apps like TweetDeck and Seesmic, you’ll find the AIM client’s support for other networks to be bare-bones at best. I doubt that any semi-serious Twitter user will rely on AIM as his or her only Twitter client, and about 95% of the things that make Facebook interesting (the full-blown wall, events, third-party apps, etc.) aren’t available.

The new AIM makes most sense for folks whose social lives are centered around AIM rather than Twitter or Facebook or another network. There are millions of those people, so it’ll be accomplishing something if all it does is make them happy. As it will be if you can use the new clients without gnashing your teeth and seeking alternative clients less likely to drive you bonkers.

I’m still looking for the ideal social-networking aggregator, but so many companies are working so hard on the challenge that I’m optimistic that I’ll find one that works for me sooner or later.

As for the new AIM client for the iPhone, I’ve downloaded and installed it–but every time I try to view my Lifestream, I get an error. I’ll check back later.

AIM network users, are you still using the AIM client? If not, why not? If you try the new versions, let us know what you think.


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iPhone Push Notifications Are Live–Finally!

iPhone AIMMuch of what’s neat about iPhone OS 3. 0 is what it does to let third-party developers build more powerful applications. And the most long-awaited feature in that department by far is push notifications, which Apple announced a year ago as an alternative to multitasking for third-party apps. The first programs to support notifications are starting to hit the App Store today. They’re both IM clients–here’s TechCrunch’s MG Siegler on the new version of AIM (which is available in an ad-supported free version and a $2.99 adless one) and the Boy Genius Report’s eponymous founder on the multi-network BeeJive (which is $9.99).

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