AOL continues its push to stay relevant with the latest upgrade to its chat program. In version 6.0, we saw the incorporation of tools that were mostly old hat to other chatware. This time around we get Twitter support, two built-in plug-ins, expanded mobile messaging, an easier way to switch skins, and a new Status message feature.
The two plug-ins are the biggest upgrades, with mixed results. Neither the QQ Games nor the AIM Tunes plug-ins worked in Vista, although they were fine on an XP machine. They both allow full control from the Buddy window, which is especially useful for AIM Tunes and the integrated streaming XM Radio. The TXT Message mode was far more stable, functioning well regardless of OS. As of this writing, though, the AIM Short Code for accessing your Buddy list and other AIM chat features via SMS has not yet been rolled out.
The other features--Plaxo address book, telephony and a free local "dummy" number with free voice mail--are nice touches, but nothing that blasts AIM ahead of the pack. The buddy window has been largely unchanged, managing links to other services, extra features, and of course, ads. Whether these services can entice new users as well as those who have drifted to multi-chatware supporting apps remains to be seen.