AOL upgrades messenger, integrates social network

AOL said on Wednesday it will launch an upgrade to its instant messenger software with new features that let users track some of the online activities of their friends.

The debut of AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM 6.0, lets users link to "Really Simple Syndication," or RSS, feeds of their friends that keeps track of friends who upload videos or posts pictures to sites such as Google Inc.'s YouTube or Yahoo Inc.'s Flickr.

The upgrade, which also provides easier-to-find links to AOL's own take on social networks, popularised by rival service MySpace, comes amid a restructuring of AOL announced this summer.

Eyeing the surge in online advertising sales growth, the online unit of the world's biggest media company Time Warner Inc. decided to give away most of its services for free. It continues to operate a dial-up Internet service, but no longer markets the service.

Early signs of progress came at the end of the third quarter when it reported a 46 percent growth in online ad revenue.

"This version (of AIM), and a lot of what we are doing in AIM Pages, is extending the user-generated communications platform on their terms with what people care about," AOL Vice President Marcien Jenckes said.

Other features of the upgrade include the ability to leave messages for friends even if they have logged off and a feature that lets users save text logs of their conversation.

AIM users can also add up to 1,000 friends on their buddy list.

More than 42 million messaging users are on the AOL Network. Over 30 million of these use AIM.

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