RealTime IT News

AIM Video Debuts, Links to iChat

America Online has officially taken the wraps off the new version of its AOL Instant Messenger application, with its much -anticipated video IM feature -- and the surprise addition of compatibility with Apple Computer's iChat AV.

AIM version 5.5's chief new feature, dubbed Live Video IM, made its way into the software only after the Federal Communications Commission cleared AOL to deploy advanced, broadband-based IM services -- including videoconferencing.

Months after regulatory approval, AOL first began enabling two AIM users to initiate videoconferencing sessions in a beta released in connection with its new Love.com dating site. When users click on a video icon during a chat, a small video window appears alongside the text IM conversation. Users can view the output of their camera in one tab, view their Buddy in another, and view them both simultaneously using a picture-in-picture feature.

The service is only available to users of Windows XP with the Microsoft RTC 1.2 Libraries.

In a twist, however, AIM 5.5 Live Video IM is compatible with the latest public beta of version 2.1 of Apple's iChat AV application. iChat AV offers AIM-compatible text chat as well as high-quality videoconferencing.

With an upgrade to iChat AV's latest version, released today, Mac users can take part in video sessions with AIM 5.5 users. (The software supports iChat-to-iChat videoconferencing using Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP , although that technology is not used in connection with its new AIM compatibility.) AOL spokespeople had previously declined to discuss whether the two systems would interoperate.

"This is a first for video messaging," said Ed Fish, senior vice president and general manager for AOL Desktop Messaging. "We not only introduced video messaging in AIM today, but we have made it compatible with iChat. We have taken the original relationship we announced in ... 2002, where iChat users and AIM users can connect to each other, and extended that into video."

The move stands to give AIM video a sharp initial boost in users of the new feature, since iChat has offered video since June, and fans of the service have created a number of sites devoted to or leveraging the application, ranging from iChatFinder.com, iChattin.com and MyiSight to the decidedly more risqué iChatNaked.

"The iChat community ... is a very vibrant community of IM users," Fish said. "We've said, let's put the PC in the background and just let people connect to their communities. And a very nice way to do that would be to extend that kind of compatibility from AIM video to iChat.

In coming months, similar video technology will be integrated into the IM client embedded into the company's flagship America Online service, Fish said.

Continued on Page Two.