RealTime IT News

AOL Offers Free AIM.com e-Mail

America Online (AOL) today began testing a free Webmail service with 2GB of storage, a message search tool and spam and virus filters in its continued battle with search and portal giants for the loyalty of Internet users.

The AIM.com domain, called AIM Mail, is available at AIM.com as part of the beta version of AOL Instant Messenger 5.9 software and will be offered through the AOL.com Web site in coming months, the ISP announced today.

The interface and underlying technology are based on software from Mailblocks, a consumer, Web-based e-mail service AOL bought in August for an undisclosed sum.

Besides storage, search and security features, AIM Mail ties into the AIM service. It has an address book with an AIM presence indicator that can be used to zip instant messages to contacts who are online.

What's more, an "unsend" feature lets users cancel a message after it's been sent to another AOL or AIM Mail user -- if the message is unread. Users can also check to see if a message sent to an AOL or AIM user has been read.

The move to free Webmail for any Internet user is the latest by AOL to get more users for its services, whether they are paying AOL members or not.

AIM Mail is expected to sell banner ads to help bring in additional revenue and undoubtedly hopes it can convince AIM Mail users to sign up for its Internet access service or premium content services.

In another attempt to recast itself as a broad portal, AOL launched other free services to non-members. Last week, for example, it introduced free blogging tools.

AOL, a subsidiary of Time Warner , is the largest ISP in the United States but has been battling a slide in subscriber numbers in recent years because of stepped-up competition.

Its announcement today is the latest move in the Webmail space to lure users. In April, Google doubled its storage space to 2 GB.

Yahoo and Microsoft (MSN Hotmail) also offer free Webmail and have been adding storage and tightening security features over the last year to address users' needs and concerns.