AOL Unleashes Instant Messenger 4.0

America Online Inc. launched the latest volley in the instant messaging war Monday by adding voice communication and image sharing to version 4.0 of its
AOL Instant Messenger.

Released for Windows and Macintosh, AIM
features AIM Talk, which enables online voice communication between
AIM users from any Internet-enabled PC. This feature is integrated into AIM
so that users can check to see who is online and make a call with a single

Instant Images lets users send and receive photos, images and sounds to one
another, adding a new dimension to instant online
communications. Also among the new version features is a new batch of Buddy
icons, which let users personalize messages and a suite of “alert” tools
that give users the heads-up on e-mails, stocks, and Buddy calls.

“By conveniently packaging together consumer-friendly communications
features and delivering new levels of personalization and interactivity, we
expect AIM 4.0 to supercharge the instant messaging revolution and be a
significant catalyst for new growth, usage and creative expression,”
Jonathan Sacks, senior vice president, AOL (AOL)
interactive services group.

AIM, which recently surpassed 50 million registered users, is the free
Internet extension of AOL’s Buddy List network instant
messaging community with over 90 million AOL members and AIM users combined.
Over the past year, AOL inked AIM agreements with Netscape, Lycos Inc. (LCOS)
and Apple Computer Corp. (APPL)

Though it is was first oriented toward personal users, AIM is catching fire
in the B2B sector as quick, convenient communications tool. AOL has been
quick to defend access by other firms to its tool, however, as CMGI-owned iCAST found last month when its clients
tried to access AOL’s users.

The blockage was not the first by AOL, which last July staunched a new
version of Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT)
messenger service that included a free Hotmail account and an AOL Instant
Messenger account. AOL stopped MSN users from accessing its services and a
fight between the companies began. Microsoft ended up hacking into AOL’s
servers, and AOL worked block the intrusion. In November, Microsoft
conceded, abandoning its connection to AOL’s messaging service.

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