AOL has recently rolled out changes to their popular AIM instant messaging service. Utilizing the skills and knowledge from their acquisition of SocialThing, AIM has become much more useful. AOL’s approach is different from the other major internet titans lifestream integrations. Where Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo have added lifestreams to user’s profiles; AOL has seamlessly integrated it into their most popular service. The effects are worth noting.
AIM’s lifestreaming integration is seen on two layers. A website that pulls all your friends activity from various services into an activity timeline, and also by placing that same stream into their latest AIM client (currently in beta). In the simplest of terms, the website collects your friends activity and turns your AIM status message into a Twitter-like update. The My Updates section provides your lifestream from the supported products.
AIM’s service list is rather small right now, but based on the supported list the same SocialThing team worked out for Bebo, I would expect more soon. Currently AIM supports Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Delicious. Also in there is AIM itself. Various privacy settings allow you to limit the noise a bit by controlling who gets to see your lifestream. Key to this initiative is AOL’s application of the Lifestream to it’s AIM client. By placing the lifestream in it’s popular IM client, it simplifies the ability to follow other other people’s updates by using one nice program.
The biggest drawback to the service is it’s lack of integration with each supported service. It brings all those activities into one spot, which means if you are already an active AIM user you no longer have to have multiple programs up to follow people’s activity. Yet, the ability to update those services is not available. So when @krynsky posts the next best lifestreaming tool, I can see the link and follow it but I cannot reply to him or comment on that update. The lack of this feature really dampens the usefulness of the lifestream.I could easily see this feature be much like Facebook’s wall-post commenting system, but not yet I’m afraid.
I indicated in the start of the post that this is something worth noting. This is significant for two reasons. One, it tells all those AIM users (one of AOL most popular products and possibly still the most active instant messaging service) that AIM is still being developed and evolving. Two, this is one of the most logical steps in the evolution of lifestreaming and it’s great to see it happen.
Lifestreaming is more and more being used as a communications medium. The aggregation of your life’s events into one place is a way of communicating those events to friends, extended friends, and beyond. I’ve always thought that a lifestream is ripe for a service like Meebo (or other IM services) to jump into. Often times a published event/status/video/etc sparks conversation (a concept FriendFeed has harnessed very well) that would make for great instant chat room topic discussion. The merging of instant messaging/chat into the lifestream flow is an exciting thing to see.