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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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Flickr Hits the iPhone, Winningly

I’m not even sure if I was aware that there was no official Flickr app for the iPhone–it’s such a natural that you’d kinda think it would have shown up eons ago. But the app didn’t show up until now. It’s good, with all the features you’d expect (including the ability to upload both photos and videos) and a decidedly Flickr-y feel. One unexpected feature: When you launch it, you get an animated slideshow of photos from your contacts and others that’s kind of addictive. (It makes me wish that the iPhone supported screen savers–this would make for a nifty one.)

I tend to take Flickr for granted except when I need to post photos, which is probably a good thing for my schedule, since it’s so easy to lose yourself in the embarrassment of photographic riches it contains. But I’m rediscovering it all over again on the iPhone. A few screens after the jump.

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Hunch Goes Live. It’s Neat!

HunchHunch, a new site from Flickr cofounder Caterina Fake, has just opened its doors to all comers. You might describe it as a sort of mashup of Yahoo Answers, Wikipedia, and any Facebook quiz that helps you determine stuff like just who your favorite member of the Three Stooges is. Except that wouldn’t come anywhere near adequately conveying how clever and distinctive this decision-making tool is. Or how outstandingly good its user interface is.

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Good Grief, Another Significant Gmail Enhancement: Previews

gmail1I’ve officially given up trying to keep pace with each and every feature Google adds to Gmail, but this one looks neat: There’s a new Gmail Labs option that enables in e-mail viewing of Flickr and Picasa photos, YouTube videos, and Yelp reviews. Gmail notices links to this content, and simply embeds it in your message so you don’t need to click away to see what a friend has sent you.

Google says it’s interested in talking to other companies with services that could be embedded into Gmail–and it would be pretty neat if the idea was extended to just about any sort of content that anyone ever links to in an e-mail…


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