Called Triton, the service is an overhaul of the Dulles, Va., company's AIM instant-messaging service. The upgrade includes a new universal address book to contact people through any of the communication services.
"We anticipate that the AIM Triton service will accelerate the growing use of voice, video and desktop-to-mobile messaging across all users," Chamath Palihapitiya, vice president and general manager for AIM at AOL, said in a statement.
Like the previous version of AIM, Triton includes a companion screen called AIM Today that provides updates throughout the day on news and entertainment content on the AOL portal. The screen is also an advertising channel for AOL.
AOL's focus on Internet telephony with Triton follows a trend among Web portals, including Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN. Also called voice over Internet protocol, the technology could eventually provide a single communications platform for voicemail, email and instant messaging. Such a platform could build customer loyalty and help keep subscribers. In addition, it could be integrated with other services. AOL, Yahoo and MSN currently connect instant messaging to online music and other services.
Triton includes an improved version of AOL's PC-to-PC voice service. The new version supports multi-party calling for up to 20 people, and includes a video instant-messaging client with a larger screen.
AOL also offers a separate full-service VoIP service called TotalTalk, which incorporates the instant-messaging service. Pricing starts at $18.99 a month for a local plan, $29.99 a month for a unlimited calling plan and $34.99 a month for a global calling plan.
Triton includes a new instant-messaging interface that corrals all active messages into a single, expandable window listing contact names vertically and communication services horizontally. The tabbed IMs make it possible to carry on multiple conversations simultaneously, and to switch quickly from desktop instant messaging to mobile text messaging, email, voice or video chat.
An improved file-transfer service supports any size file, which can be dragged and dropped from a PC.
AOL leads the U.S. instant messaging market with 41.6 million subscribers. In comparison, Yahoo, which has the second largest network, has less than half the subscribers of AIM at 19.1 million, according to web metrics firm ComScore Networks. MSN has 14.1 million subscribers.