Hot on the heals of the latest trojan exploit targeting AIM users, AOL has announced that they are going to be offering free web-based email, integrated with AIM user data. In other words, every AOL subscriber on the planet will now have an additional email address, and every AIM user will have another as well. The AIM email will be interoperable with the instant messaging component, including naming convention, single login, and direct access to mail through the AIM client window.
I see good, and I see bad.
On a positive note, if AOL’s claim of dramatic spam reductions are correct, the email portion of the service will likely be fairly well protected. And getting a message off to a buddy that isn’t logged in will be more convenient as well.
On a darker note, the relative ease in obtaining an AIM account is going to enable spammers. One quick signup, and you have an email account and IM account for spamming one’s little heart out. And evildoers are going to get a two-for-one deal on any directory harvesting they can pull off too.
AOL is clearly looking to leverage the good AIM name. While folks like Yahoo! and Microsoft already have the one-two punch of free email and messaging, AOL has a lot more traction and is looking to keep it. Whether they can manage this new offering and turn it into a successful business model remains to be seen. Keeping it clear of nasties such as trojans, spam and phishing attempts, both inbound and outbound, is going to be an even bigger challenge.
And I almost forgot – AOL is adding free blogging services to the mix as well.