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AIM 5.5 Adds WeatherBug

America Online on Monday announced a deal with WeatherBug to integrate weather content on its AIM instant messaging platform and outlined plans to expand the capabilities of the popular chat application.

WeatherBug, a brand of AWS Convergence Technologies, will be available as an optional download with AIM 5.5 and can be used to shuttle weather-related content and personalized alerts to AOL's 35 million active IM users.

The WeatherBug add-on will be free; AIM users will have the option of upgrading to a paid, ad-free version of WeatherBug.

"The design schema we did for AIM moving forward is much less about one-to-one communication. It's more about a community about engaging in shared experiences," according to Edmund Fish, senior VP and general manager of AOL's Desktop Messaging division.

Fish told internetnews.com the WeatherBug add-on was part of a larger plan to expand the use of IM beyond text-chatting and to find revenue opportunities from products that have historically been available for free. Among home and work users, instant messaging has become one of the most widely used communications tool. But outside of embedding advertising on buddy lists and chat windows, revenue generation from the application has been limited.

He said the decision to add weather content to AIM 5.5 was a no-brainer. "Weather is the number one topic of everyday conversation. It's a big part of many shared experience, whether it's event planning, family planning or just going to work in the mornings."

With the latest integration, Fish said AIM users could conduct live video instant messaging conversations, link-up and manage multiple AIM screen names from the same session, invite their buddies to play online games through their instant messaging connection and access WeatherBug's up-to-the-second local conditions.

The features also include access to nationwide weather camera images and IM weather alerts.

Down the road, Fish said the two companies would work towards adding new weather features and explore collaboration opportunities within WeatherBug's network of schools, educators, and students.

WeatherBug runs a network of more than 7,000 live sensors and 1,000 cameras that generate kive neighborhood level reports.