AOL Instant Messenger, or simply AIM, is a free instant messenger service. AIM is available on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Introduced in 1997, AIM is one of the most popular IM programs with over 60 million users. You don't need to be an AOL subscriber in order to sign-up to download and use AIM.
AOL Instant Messenger has full range of features, including video and voice chat, status messages, logging and buddy icons (avatars). You can create custom away messages. AIM supports both person-to-person IM as well as multi-person IM conferencing or group chats.
Did I say AIM was free? What I should have said is that you won't pay for the privilege of using it, but you will have to tolerate ads. There are ads on the buddy list and in your chat window… unless you choose an alternate client (read on).
AIM is actually offers some of the best interoperability going. From AIM, you can chat with contacts on ICQ, iChat and Google Talk (via Gmail Chat) — without having accounts on those IM networks! There are a number of good multiprotocol clients such as Adium, Digsby and Miranda, but these all require that you create accounts on each IM network you want to use.
Sometimes you need to send an instant message from another computer and you don't want to (or cannot) install AIM. AOL provides a web-based version called AIM Express. It works across must browsers and operating systems, although it does require Flash support. With AIM Express, you won't get video, voice chat or file transfers, but it works fine for basic, text-based instant messaging.
AIM supports a broad range of mobile devices, including specialized applications for:
- iPhone & iPod Touch
- Windows Mobile
In addition, most mobile carriers in the U.S. support text-based AIM in their handsets. You can check here for instructions on getting AIM on your phone.
Fun Stuff, Tips & Tricks
There is fun to be had with AIM. You can skin AIM with an Expression, swap out your buddy icons, or download a plugin to make AIM do new tricks.
In March 2008, AOL introduced the Open AIM initiative, officially opening up AIM's protocol to third-party developers like Digsby, Trillian and meebo to hook into the AIM network without reverse engineering. Open AIM has spawned a series of alternative messengers, including
- AIM Lite – a lightweight, advertisement-free version of AIM
- Ahoihoi – a beautiful, streamlined version that you can recolor
- and many others. Check the AIM Gallery for the latest list.
Updated on March 14, 2009