May 3, 2005 5:42 PM PDT

AOL tests Triton IM software

America Online has overhauled its instant messaging application to combine voice and text conversations with games and file- and photo-sharing.

Last week, the Internet company began testing an early-stage IM application, called Triton, which eventually will be the foundation of AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM. Among its innovations, Triton features a unified chat box with "tabs" for each new conversation and easy access to address book information.

The chat box includes tabs for mobile and text communications, photo- and file-sharing, and eventually will enable users strike up a chat via Internet video.

For now, Triton works only for Windows XP users.

With roughly 20 million active AIM users, AOL is trying to stay ahead in a highly competitive game. Although it operates one of the most widely used chat applications, AOL faces constant pressure from Yahoo, Microsoft and many others integrating social networking and chat communications.

Broadband adoption among consumers has opened possibilities to mesh voice, video and data communications with services such as games and social networking. With Triton, AOL is treating the IM architecture as a foundation for delivery of these types of services.

AOL has not identified a public launch date for Triton, but it plans to use the software as its underlying IM architecture. However, AOL said it plans to introduce one more iteration of its current AIM software, version 5.9.

Tests of Triton come as AOL rolls out Internet voice service in 40 cities.

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Tabbed chat box? Innovation?
It's interesting how big-name software outfits like AOL can still get away with calling a feature "innovative" years after "hacker" communities get tired of waiting for it and implement the feature themselves... Third-party "add-ons" for AIM have been advertising tabbed IM containers for quite some time, and clients like Trillian made the feature a staple of the IM world long ago.

In my opinion, most "official" IM client developers stopped doing much innovating a long time ago -- which is why so many users have looked to third-party solutions. Oh well... At least AOL is trying. Perhaps their next amazing innovation will be the ability to skin the ugly AIM interface? :-)
Posted by Sculptor of Rhythm (40 comments )
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