AOL finally joins the web-based e-mail wars with a feature-laden product with presence technology built right in.
AOL today announced that it has begun the beta test of AIM Mail, the company's new, free web-based e-mail service available to anyone on the Internet. "Our vision," said AIM vice president Chamath Palihapitiya, "is to make AIM a complete communications service."
The new service is available starting at 4pm EDT today for beta testing to all AIM users who visit www.aim.com. to download the AIM 5.9 software. The new client will have access to the e-mail through the Internet Explorer browser. AIM users can use their screen names as their e-mail addresses. "They just have to add '@aim.com' and they'll be doing the right thing," said Roy Ben-Yoseph, director of communication & client products.
"As the largest business-use instant messaging service, we have something of a built-in audience," said Palihapitiya, "and we are leveraging that with three key features that include the best anti-virus and anti-spam systems anywhere, 2 GB of storage, and most important, IMAP support."
Like other web-based e-mail product, AIM Mail will be advertiser-supported and free to users. "AIM has tightened up its service so that advertisers are finding more value in it," said Palihapitiya, "and the e-mail product will be attractive to them because of the AIM demographic."
Unlike other web-based e-mail products, AIM Mail will include an on-screen notifier, and features drag-and-drop technology for managing messages and folders. Other features include:
Integration With AIM Service: The familiar Running Man icon appears in the e-mail headers if a sender or cc-ed recipient is logged on to the AOL or AIM. This presence implementation allows users to see when friends and colleagues are online and enables them to easily respond via e-mail or instant message.
Single Sign-on: Users can utilize their AIM Screen Name as their AIM.com e-mail address enabling them to launch and access their instant messaging and e-mail service with a single password, and to launch the e-mail service from the AIM Buddy List or the Mail panel in the AIM Today welcome screen.
Unsend Message: Users can cancel a message after it's been sent to another AOL or AIM Mail user if the message has not been read. Users can also check the status of a message sent to an AOL or AIM user and confirm if and when the message has been read.
Address Book With AIM Presence: The presence indicator lets users send an instant message from the Address Book to a contact if they are online.
E-mail Signatures With Presence: Signatures can also include a user's online presence status.
Rich Text Formatting: HTML formatting options allow any style of e-mail composition, including the ability to change fonts, font sizes and colors, add bullets or numbers, and change text alignment.
Auto-Address: This feature automatically fills in an e-mail address if a user types the first part of a name that already exists in their Address Book.
Built-in Spell Checker: Feature automatically suggests corrections to spelling-challenged users and enables them to proofread messages before they are sent.
Away Messages: Users can inform others that they are away and unable to read their e-mails.
AIM Mail joins AOL Journals as a new product that extends the product reach of the AIM brand. "In order to live up to a reputation as a great communications service, we must have great ways for users to express themselves," said Palihapitiya, "and our job is to integrate them into the AIM experience."
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