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How AOL Instant Messenger Works

        Tech | E-mail & Messaging

AIM Express and Other Products
Instant messaging provides a great way to stay
Instant messaging provides a great way to stay
© Photographer: Lisa F. Young | Agency: Dreamstime

On an increasing basis, computer users are depending on instant messaging to reach friends, even when they're not at home. AIM Express, a new service, allows users to send IMs to friends without downloading or running any software. AIM Express runs in any Web browser and is convenient for users who can't access AIM.

Friends can talk to friends from any location as long as they're at a computer that has Internet access. They can use it at home, school or work. Here's how it works:

  1. Go to the AIM Express Web site and click the button that says "Launch AIM Express."
  2. Log in with your AIM screen name and password.
  3. Your browser will launch a small pop-up window that resembles your normal AIM software, without newer features like audio and video calls.

AIM Express works just like the software version of AIM. The application loads your entire Buddy List. Any new buddies or groups you add will automatically be added to your desktop version the next time you log on. You can also access AOL Mail through two e-mail icons at the bottom of the window.

Some office and school networks block users from logging onto AIM Express through their browsers. One way around this is to use AIM Express Proxy, a stripped down Web version of AIM that runs on a proxy server, eluding most network filters.

AIM Share is another Web service that lets you send a link or broadcast a message to all of your buddies at once. You can either log onto the AIM Share Web site or add a special AIM Share button to your browser toolbar. When you find a cool Web site, click the AIM Share button and AIM will create a message featuring the site's URL. Type a quick description and press "Share" to send to the link to everyone on your Buddy List.

In your Web settings for AIM, you can also configure AIM to send messages to your buddies each time you post on one of many popular social networking and social media Web sites like YouTube, Digg,, Flickr and others.

AIM Expressions is a new site for managing your buddy icons and wallpaper. A buddy icon is the small image that accompanies all of your outgoing IMs as well as your buddy profile. Wallpaper is the background to your buddy icon.

In the My Personality box at the top of the AIM Expressions page are your current settings. Click the Change buttons to browse a list of dozens of buddy icons and wallpapers. You can also type "buddy icon" into Google and find hundreds of sites for downloading customized buddy icons.

Now let's look at some of the other new products and services offered by AIM.