A New version of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) has just been released on the web (preview.aim.com), desktop (PC/Mac) and mobile phones. It features significant changes in the user interface. First, the contact list is not that long and monolithic anymore. Instead, the most recent contacts appear first, favorites come next, then group chats and the whole list. The web version has practically all the features of the desktop one, so it’s very tempting to simply use that one.
The chat thread itself looks different and can now render a number of media inline, namely video files from YouTube+Vimeo and images files (or links to) like JPG, PNG… videos can be played right from inside the thread as well. Other things like Twitter updates/links are also recognized and stylized properly. At the moment, AIM doesn’t recognize a lot of formats, but this can/will be added down the road.
Group chats are now available and it is easy to create and manage (add/remove people) . This can be used for an informal group chat, or to have a permanent conversation space for a team (we do something like this at Ubergizmo).
AOL is able to launch on so many platforms at once because it is using cross-platform web-based technologies (Chrome Framework) to build the new AIM. That’s very smart because IM is typically a low-intensity task, so any overhead compared to a native app should be mild. On the other hand, the same code can be leveraged across many platforms.
I won’t go over all the new features of AIM, but I’m glad to see it get a new wind. I find the design to be clean and it is clear that the development team gave it a lot of thoughts. Do you still have an AIM account? I just dusted mine off.