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AIM's New Video Chat Service Aims to Live Up to Competition

May 13, 2011

AIM's New Video Chat Service Aims to Live Up to Competition

By Tammy Wolf
TMCnet Web Editor

It seems to be forever ago that AOL’s (News - Alert) AIM was the go-to service for instant communication with friends, family and peers. For this editor, my high school and college days were filled with AIM chats revolving around what bar my group of friends would frequent that night, whether a peer had done the term paper yet, or just pure catching up with distant friends scattered at their respective schools. In essence, it was our form of text messaging before cell phones automatically offered this capability.

Now, my beloved AIM conversations have been replaced with the messaging functions of other instant messenger services, like Gmail’s Gchat or Skype (News - Alert). In fact, when I’ve signed on to the AIM service in recent months (out of pure curiosity to see who else is “on,” of course), I’ve noticed my online buddy list has dwindled to a select few. While both Gchat and Skype offer similar functions to what AIM provided to me during my school days, they are definitely outshining the antiquated AIM service and forcing the once-popular service to fade into the past.

But now, AOL, Inc., the brainchild of AIM instant messenger, has jumped on board with the likes of Skype and will feature a free video chat capability. While it will function as another contender in the competitive field of video chat, AIM’s new service, called AV, won’t require users to log in or download software.

A chat with friends (up to a max of four) on AV will be quite simple: Users equipped with a webcam can start chatting once they are sent a link from a friend who wishes to chat. Once the link is accessed, a chat window will pop up on the screen and reveal live video of the chat session coordinator and any other participants.   

According to AIM team member Jason Shellen, AV boasts several unique features including the ability for users to type messages while chatting and remove others from that chat (in case you’re feeling extra exclusive), and a “Group Shot,” which allows users to take a photo of everyone in the chat at once – just in case you want to document your session, of course.

Since AV uses Adobe Systems’s Flash software, it will only work on PCs and some Flash-running smartphones. For iPhone (News - Alert) and iPad users, you’re out of luck; but Shellen confirmed his team will continue to explore making the service available to other platforms and as a smartphone application.

While this editor plans on continuing to use my trusty Skype service to video chat with friends, I am definitely open to another outlet for instant face-to-face communication. Besides, I have to admit it’s hard to forget the sound that used to emanate from my computer when I received an IM on my AIM, and the sheer excitement I sometimes felt as I rushed across my dorm room to see who wanted my attention.

Tammy Wolf is a TMCnet web editor. She covers a wide range of topics, including IP communications and information technology. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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