Tag Archives | Instant Messaging

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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iMessage: Is it BlackBerry Messenger for iOS?

While iPhone users already are familiar with the messaging app for SMS, up until now only third party apps could give similar functionality to other iOS devices. Apple answered that at WWDC today with the debut of iMessage.

iMessage seems to essentially be like a BlackBerry Messenger for the iOS platform. You can send text messages, photos, and videos. Like desktop IM clients, you will be able to see when somebody is typing. Also, your conversations would be pushed to all your iOS devices, and you can choose to enable delivery and read receipts.

My question is now, what about interoperability? Will iMessage languish as an iOS only application with no way to contact the outside world? How about support for other platforms — say AIM — which its desktop counterpart iChat has supported for awhile.

We’ll let you know as we get more details…


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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Gmail Adds Voice and Video Chat

gmail1Gmail is rolling out a new feature today: Voice and Video Chat. The bad news–for me, not you–is that it isn’t showing up for me yet when I log into Gmail. The good news? I happened to be visiting Google when the news broke, so I got an in-person demo. (They say that it’ll be available to all Gmail users by the end of the day.)

The feature looks cool, and it’s exceedingly straightforward. When you’re in Gmail, your contact list will show a little green camera icon next to any buddy who has a Webcam, is online, and has installed the Gmail Voice and Video Chat plug-in (which works with IE 7, some versions of IE 6, Firefox, Safari, and, of course, Chrome). Click the icon, and you get a chat window with video in the botton right-hand corner of the Gmail interface. (You can also blow it up to full-screen mode.)

Here’s Google’s demo:

I haven’t used Gmail for chat much; this is a reason to give it a try…assuming that I can get the folks I’d like to chat with to install Google’s plug-in, that is.

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