AOL is offering users of its AIM instant messaging service new capabilities to see where people on their buddy lists are physically located.
The first phase of this push is with an unusual software plug-in developed by Skyhook Wireless, whose backers include Intel. Skyhook tracks locations by using the continuous wireless pulses emitted by all Wi-Fi transmitters and Wi-Fi-enabled computers, rather than more common satellite-based approach.
The Skyhook plug-in, available as a free download, adds a new grouping to AIM’s buddy list window called “Near Me.” That group will feature the names of any buddies who opt to share their locations and who are within a set distance from the AIM user. The application also can display a buddy’s location on a map. For now, these capabilities will be available when using AIM on a computer, but not on a cellphone.
AOL, a unit of Time Warner, told The Associated Press that the Skyhook application was the first of several new location-aware capabilities it plans to add to AIM in the next couple of months, but the company declined to elaborate.
“As we build these platforms for people to connect, we find that context is very important,” said Marcien Jenckes, who heads the AIM business.