AOL and Google have taken their instant messaging partnership to a whole new level with complete interoperability between AIM, Gmail and Google Talk.
Gmail users have been able to access their AIM account through Google Talk since 2007, but AIM accounts couldn’t message Google Talk accounts and vice versa. The juggling of two different IM accounts has limited the usefulness of AIM within Gmail. Google announced inblog post though that the two companies have made some interoperability changes to their chat clients.
The first big change is that AIM users can now send messages to their Google contacts and vice versa. This works no matter what client a person is using, so they can IM a friend that uses AIM via Google Talk, Gmail, iGoogle, Orkut or any other Gtalk client. Gmail users will now see a prompt asking them to add their AIM buddies directly to Gtalk. Users will have to add @aol.com to the end of the AIM contact they are trying to add to make it work (e.g. email@example.com).
Because users can add AIM contacts directly through Gmail, Google has removed the ability to sign in via AIM. This would normally be a problem for Google users that have hundreds of AIM contacts in their Gmail chat client, but AOL has created a tool to help them quickly add their AIM buddies to Gmail.
The changes may not affect users immediately, but they are big changes. AOL and Google have tens of millions of instant messenging users each. Combining their user bases makes both chat platforms far more useful, which could help them fend off their competition. They need to worry about Facebook, whose FbChat service has grown in popularity, and Skype, which has more than 500 million users and is now owned by Microsoft.