Gmail may have dragged thousands of e-mail users away from their existing accounts at other companies and over to Google, but the company’s approach to IM, dubbed Google Talk, hasn’t had quite the same success. Without many users, the standalone client stagnated until Google combined it with Gmail, proving that users enjoy the convenience of chatting while they e-mail, but not necessarily on Google’s own small network.
The solution: combining AIM functionality into the same widget that formerly hosted Google Talk alone. Google formally unveiled the function on Tuesday, at which point it was already live through the Gmail interface. Gmail users can now sign on to their AIM accounts and have buddies listed in a sidebar the same way GTalk buddies are, but with tiny AIM icons next to names to differentiate.
The added functionality has been a long time in the coming. Google first announced plans for AIM integration all the way back in December 2005 when it acquired a 5 percent stake in AOL for $1 billion, but the project took a back seat to other work.
Given the fierce competition between Google and other major companies with their own e-mail and IM clients, such as Microsoft and Yahoo, integrating more IM standards into Gmail in the near future looks unlikely.