Gmail (Google's free web-based email service that offers tons of storage) has just introduced AIM integration into its chat feature. Provided that you're able to access Gmail with chat enabled (at the bottom of your Gmail screen, make sure you're using the Standard view), users can now sign into AOL Instant Messenger and chat with all of their AIM buddies right from within their Gmail window.
The only hitch, and it's a very small one at that, is that you'll need to have an AIM account separately from Gmail in order to use this new feature. If you're an old AOL user or you have an AIM account, that's great; if not, just go over to AOL Instant Messenger and create one--it's totally free!
Here's a the announcement from Google's Press Release:
December 4, 2007
Now chat with your AIM buddies inside Gmail
In February 2006, we integrated real-time chat into the GmailTM email service. Our goal was to let users switch between email and instant messaging without having to think about which they were using -- we even kept a history of chats and emails together in conversation threads so you could view and search both without worrying about whether your conversation happened as an email or a chat session.
But we know many of our users also have friends who use other chat services such as AIM.
So today we're rolling out a new feature to make it even more convenient and useful to chat from Gmail: you can now chat with all your AIM buddies right inside Gmail. Just click on the upside-down triangle next to "set status here" in your Gmail chat and select "Sign into AIM" from the drop down menu. Once you've entered your AIM log-in information, your AIM contacts will appear intermingled among your Gmail contacts, and you can select an AIM contact and chat with them directly.
This is just one of the first new features we're able to launch using Gmail's new code structure. This is rolling out in the newest English version of Gmail first and will be available in other languages soon. We're always looking for new and useful ways to help our users connect with friends, family, and coworkers, and we look forward to your feedback.
For more information or to start chatting, just log in to Gmail at www.gmail.com.
Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered this ability this morning. :)