AOL Testing 'Light' Version of AIM

Responding to the requests of its more advanced users, AOL has begun developing a new lightweight AIM client that includes just the basic instant messaging functionality without all the frills. Called AIM ET, the software is available from AOL's Greenhouse site that offers previews of new products.

Since the late 1990s, instant messaging clients have become more than just text-based communication tools. They include a wide range of functionality like voice and video chat, integrated blogging and even the ability to make phone calls. But for those looking for a basic IM experience, much of the additions have simply amounted to extraneous "bloat."

In turn, savvy consumers have turned to third-party clients such as Trillian, or even AOL's new AIM Pro software designed for businesses. Google has also entered the fray with its simple Google Talk software that has primarily appealed to those looking for something less bulky that AIM Triton or Windows Live Messenger.

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"One thing I've been pushing for at AOL since I got here almost a year ago is a light version of AIM. Ted Leonsis, Jim Bankoff, and Jon Miller and I have had countless discussions about the issue and we've made huge progress," says Netscape.com head Jason Calacanis. "This is really the future of AOL: light, fast, free products that compliment our bigger, more feature-rich products."

AIM ET is designed to answer this demand. It removes all but the primary IM functionality from AIM, and contains no advertising. The software utilizes very few system resources, making it ideal for those with older machines.

Still in prototype form, it's unclear whether AOL will officially release AIM ET and under what branding. Calacanis notes that the names "AIM Light" or "Light AIM" are under consideration. However, AOL has developed a number of new products over the years, such as AOL Media Player, that have never seen the light of day.

But Calacanis seems confident that AIM ET represents the direction AOL is headed as it migrates from an ISP to offering open Web services to all users. "Drop everything and go play with it," he says, "this is the future of AOL: light, open, cutting-edge, and elite as well as mass market."

AIM ET 1.07 is available for download now from FileForum.

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