AOL Rolls Out Upgraded AIM

AOL Time Warner Inc.’s America Online division has added a few features to its wildly popular AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) client.

In the new version 4.8 of the program, IM’ers can now use a “Send Mail” feature directly from the Buddy List window. With the feature, a user can e-mail people on their Buddy List directly from their AOL, CompuServe, or Netscape e-mail accounts. All a person has to do is select a buddy in the Buddy List and click on Send Mail.

The first time a user tries to e-mail a buddy, she’ll be prompted for that buddy’s e-mail address. The e-mail address will be saved to your host-based address book and will be automatically used the next time you e-mail the buddy. Buddy e-mail addresses are updateable as well.

If the user does not already have an AOL, CompuServe, or Netscape mailbox that is the same as her AIM Screen Name, the Send Mail button will send her to a Netscape Mail sign up page.

In addition, users of the new AIM version 4.8 can manage their Web Alerts directly from the My AIM menu. Web Alerts sends via e-mail customized updates in regards to sports scores, stock movements, weather and news.

AOL has not updated its AIM client since last July. At that time, AOL added a new “AIM Today” window that supplies content from AOL and other Time Warner properties, as well as serving as a jumping off place to meet online with other people who have the same interests. Other new features in AIM 4.7 include the ability to send customized, electronic greeting cards within instant messages; the ability to create and store personalized notes that will appear on screen whenever a user scrolls their mouse over names within the AIM Buddy List feature; and HTTP proxy support to make it easier for users to connect to the AIM service from work.

AOL’s AIM has greatly helped to boost the instant-messaging market in general. The online giant says it counts more than 150 million users for AIM. While figures from independent research firms put AIM’s usage figures at much-smaller levels, it is clear that AIM dominates in consumer and business IM.

One report issued Monday by Nielsen//NetRatings said nearly 40% of the active U.S.-based Internet-using population at home logged onto one of the public instant-messaging (IM) networks at least once in the month of May, while 31% of U.S. business ‘Net surfers used IM in that same time frame. Broken out in numbers of users, more than 41 million consumers used one of the four IM networks — AOL’s AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger — in May, while nearly 12.6 million office workers used instant messaging, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

In the at-home market, AOL’s Instant Messenger (AIM) took the top spot, attracting more than 22 million unique users or 53.4% of those using a public IM network. MSN Messenger came in second, followed by Yahoo Messenger and ICQ, respectively.

Of the at-work market, AOL’s AIM came in first at 6.5 million users or 56% of the people using a public IM client. As in the at-home figures, MSN Messenger was in second, Yahoo Messenger was third and ICQ trailed in fourth.

And in a study published late last year by Jupiter Media Metrix , the company said the number of unique users of IM applications at work increased by 34% — from 10 million in September 2000 to 13.4 million in September 2001. The number of unique users of IM apps at home increased 28%, from 42.0 million in September 2000 to 53.8 million in September 2001.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.

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