AOL (which owns TechCrunch) is releasing a preview of the new AIM today. It was completely redesigned by Jason Shellen’s team, which joined AOL with the acquisition of Thing Labs (makers of Twitter client Brizzly). The new AIM strips away many of the Lifestream features which were previously built into AIM, and focuses mostly on communications.
The AIM preview is launching simultaneously on the desktop, web, iPhone and Android. (The mobile versions will be available later today). The buddy list is gone, replaced by recent chats (kind of like Skype). In addition to AIM buddies, you can chat with your Facebook and GTalk contacts all within AIM. It also shows your Twitter @mentions and new followers. But it does not support Yahoo Instant Messenger or Microsoft Messenger (interesting). Be careful when you add your Google contacts, in the preview version they all get spammed with a message asking if they want to chat messages to be on or off the record.
Photos and videos can be embedded inline, and chat history get synced between the mobile and desktop versions (again, much like Skype). It also includes a feed reader with news headlines
I keep mentioning Skype because many people use Skype primarily as an IM client. I certainly do. AIM doesn’t do phone calls. But it does do one-on-one video chat. And it also does group chat (which Skype doesn’t do very well). But here, AIM is responding to GroupMe, Beluga, and the like.
The one feature that seems like a legacy from the old Lifestream strategy is a news feed, which is helpful enough, except it only includes feeds from AOL-owned properties (mostly Huffington Post channels, TechCrunch is in there too). There is no obviously way to add more feeds, which is pretty lame. Either make it a full feed reader, or get rid of it is my two cents.
Check out the preview and share your feedback with other readers in comments.