Social networks are front and center in the latest redesign of AOL's AOL.com homepage, which the company announced Thursday and says it will start to gradually roll out to users over the next few weeks (unless they choose to opt in earlier).
A widget (or module, or gadget, or whatever you want to call it) on the new AOL.com features a tabbed interface with updates from five different social-networking and messaging services: AOL's own AIM and Bebo, MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook. Called "My Networks," the tabs invite members to log into their social profiles and see a limited amount of information--feed and in-box updates from Facebook and MySpace, new Twitter messages, AIM status messages, etc.--as well as links to access the full versions of the apps.
The Facebook credentials, for example, come from the social network's new Facebook Connect service, an extension of its developer API.
These are just the launch partners, AOL executive James Clark told CNET News last week, and more social-networking and messaging services will be added to the lineup over time. "(It's) part of a consistent evolution of opening up," Clark explained, pointing to AOL's addition last month of outside e-mail service alerts to AOL.com. The more dynamic homepage, which also includes an embedded RSS reader, is indicative of a new direction for AOL, he said.
"Traditional portals have gone about as far as they can go," Clark added.
AOL acquired social aggregator Socialthing this year, but has not specifically integrated its technology into the new AOL.com--yet. Clark said that the separate teams have been "comparing notes," though.