America Online Updates Instant Messenger

America Online Inc. Thursday unveiled the latest version of its popular instant messenger service, which lets Internet surfers privately chat in real time.

The service is an extension of AOL’s Buddy List service, available to all Internet users via free download from the AOL site.

New features of version 2.0 include a search of Web, yellow and white pages, expanded news and information, enhanced chat features for public and private conversations, a community directory of 150 chat areas, an updated people finder feature and a file transfer service.

AOL reports approximately 25 million users of the Instant Messenger service, and with Thursday’s roll-out the company hopes that number will grow substantially.

“We expect the strong growth in instant messaging will continue and reach a level of importance and acceptance equal to that of e-mail, ” said Barry Appelman, AOL’s senior vice president for systems and creator of AOL’s real-time communications technology.

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