Messaging Blues

The Magic of Messaging: This blog contains stuff related to E-Mail, SMS,Text Messaging, Instant messaging, MMS etc (Mobile/Internet/Wireless/Text/IM)

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

AOL, WebEx Build At-Work IM

For most of the millions of people around the world who regularly use instant messaging, the communications tool has largely been a text-only experience in which typed emoticons offer only minimal clues to someone's state of mind.

The recent launch of two services -- a brand new, fully three-dimensional chat-room product known as IMVU, and AOL Instant Messenger's new 3-D SuperBuddy icons -- is putting the spotlight on a major shift by the leading IM providers toward making graphical avatars a fundamental personalization feature.

IMVU is the new service from Will Harvey, founder of There. Harvey is riffing on some of the core communications features he developed for There's metaverse and devoting them to instant messaging. In IMVU, people talk to each other in 3-D chat rooms using avatars that display a wide range of emotional cues and do so through a client that is compatible with the leading IM applications.

"IMVU gives you the sense that you are in the presence of the person you are chatting with," said Harvey. "What I think we understand better than anyone else is that the killer app is something that lets people feel like they are with the person they are chatting with."

People seem to see something in IMVU -- Harvey said the service is getting 1,000 new users per day.

AIM's 3-D SuperBuddy icons appear alongside the service's traditional chat boxes and display emotional cues in response to commands typed by the service's users. AOL subscribers have used SuperBuddies since mid-2003, but their release in AIM follows a trend of graphical avatar-based instant messaging started by Yahoo and ICQ.

"It's really an extension to the conversation," said Drew Weaver, AOL's director of marketing for expressions and greetings. "It really adds a layer of fun and interactivity to the conversation without getting in the way of the actual conversation itself."

According to a study by comScore MediaMetrix, more than 250 million people use instant messaging regularly. And IDC estimates that more than 7 billion instant messages are sent every day. According to AOL senior director of corporate communications Krista Thomas, AIM's users are known to spend six hours a day on average with their IM client open.