I can finally ditch AIM! I don’t actually have AIM installed, but it is one of the protocols I use in my multi-IM clients. I have several people who are still on AIM and that’s the way I communicate with them via chat. AOL and Google have finally completed interoperability among AIM, Gmail and Google Talk.
For a while now Gmail users have been able to access their AIM account via Google Talk. The downside was that AIM accounts couldn’t message Google Talk accounts and vice versa; this really limited the usefulness of AIM within Gmail. Google just announced on a blog post that the two IM giants have made some interoperability changes to their chat clients.
The first change is that AIM users can now send messages to their Google contacts and vice versa. It makes no difference which client you are using. You can IM a friend that uses AIM via Google Talk, Gmail, iGoogle, or any other Gtalk client. Gmail users will soon see a prompt asking them to add their AIM friends to Gtalk. You’ll have to append @aol.com to the end of the AIM contact you’re trying to add to make it work. In other words to add JohnJohnson you’d have to enter JohnJohnson@aol.com. Simple enough.
Because users can add AIM contacts via Gmail now, Google has removed the ability to sign in to AIM. That might pose a problem for users with a ton of AIM contacts but AOL has created a tool to help you migrate your AIM buddies to Gmail. If you’re using Two-Factor Authentication with your Google Account you’ll need to create and provide an Application Specific Password for the import tool. It is temporary though, one time use, and you can delete it once the tool has run it’s course.
The changes are slowly rolling out to all users so if you don’t see it right now just give it a bit and you’ll see it soon. Keep in mind that Google and AOL have tens of millions of IM users each. While this is great for us end users it’s also likely a play to fend off the onslaught of users relying on Facebook’s FbChat service as well as Skype, which has more than 500 million users and was just purchased by Microsoft.