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Matchmaker, matchmaker find me an Imer

Dec 16, 20032 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

* AOL marries personals ads with instant messaging

Last week, AOL announced the introduction of, a personals service that combines personals advertising with the company’s instant messaging service. allows users to post their profiles at no charge and include lots of personal information about their likes, dislikes, past experiences, occupation and other relevant information, as well as their photograph. will also link each user’s screen name to their AOL Instant Messaging screen name so that messages sent to a screen name will be forwarded in real time to an AIM account.  AOL plans to provide wireless access to the service in 2004, further expanding its reach and increase its use.

The service has a couple of important implications for the IM industry.  First, it gives AIM users (at least those who are interested in personals services) even more reason to stay with the AIM service, and it gives non-AIM users more reason to switch or become first-time users of the service.  Because consumer-oriented IM services are not natively interoperable with each other, they rely on the “gravitas” of the installed base in order to attract customers:  i.e., the larger the installed base of users, the more compelling the reason to use a particular IM provider.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, signals the trend to do something more with IM than just share snippets of text back and forth.  It gives users the real-time ability to find people based on common interests or some other criteria.  This application of IM – combining presence technology with a knowledge base of relevant information – has important implications for the enterprise.  As discussed in past columns, this combination could prove extremely valuable in the context of day-to-day business operations.  For example, if you received a telephone inquiry from a prospective client about an obscure law that might pertain to shipping your product to them, you just might be able to find someone online at the time who could answer your question.

I once worked with a consultant who said that you don’t need to know everything; you just need to know how to find out everything – combining IM with knowledge is an important step forward in being able to fulfill that.