Friday, September 3, 2010

AIM 7.3 – Is this what IM should be like?

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Did AOL finally get AIM right, again, after all of these years?  After so many different versions, including a specialized “Business Messenger”, AIM was getting a bit bloated and convoluted for its own good.  AOL wanted it to do so many things right, that it did them all wrong, including its primary purpose of instant messaging!  Now we have version 7.3 that is sleeker and faster with Facebook chat integration.  Along with their own Lifestream Social aggregator.

For those that have been around online for such a long time will recall how the big messengers of the late 90’s and early 00’s was ICQ, AIM, MSN, and lastly Yahoo.  Since that time, the position of those four has greatly changed and a new player has since entered the game.  ICQ was bought up by AOL, and has pretty much fallen to the way side seeing few if no new features in years, but still kept alive for probably nostalgia.  MSN Messenger is now Windows Live Messenger and is just as bloated as ever.  Yahoo IM is still relatively the same as always with new features integrated with it, but never really feeling integrated into the rest of the Yahoo services.  It has an aggregator as well, but not really all that polished or as useful.  Google has entered the fray with its trim and fast Google Talk.  AIM is still floating around in the midst of these.  Not left out, but sorely needing a bit of a social make over.

The latest version of the IM client has a minimalist appearance to it.  It has a single ad banner at the bottom that really doesn’t feel all that intrusive.  There are three tabs at the top.  The first is for your buddy list, the second is Lifestream, and the third is your personal feed showing what you have done online.  Lifestream is really good with it able to keep track of your activity on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Foursquare, and a few other social networks.

When chatting, or messaging a friend, the window is tabbed allowing you to communicate with multiple individuals without crowding your screen with IM windows.  I didn’t see an option to untab the IM window, but I am certain there is a setting hidden away in there if you do not like tabbed IM windows.

With the way AIM looks and feels, if they could convince users that they are great again, then they could keep themselves going strong with such a tool…especially with a good Social Network aggregator like Lifestream.  I admit, I have not used AIM for well over two years.  I am impressed with this new version.  Way to go AOL!

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