Witty Headline Circa 1994: You’ve Got (Music) Mail!

I have no idea why they call it AIM*. I suppose the idea is that you “aim” to communicate with your friends by means of a standardized text protocol, lol-ing them into a false sense of security, so that you can rofl their feathers from a distance. Regardless of its unclear etymology, AIM is one of the most popular tools for businesspeople who need to send tiny pictures of winking faces across the world instantaneously. For example

SpencerMorgan: ur 4 hilary rite? ;)

ChetBanister: lol

Along with last week’s release of AIM 6.5, AOL (pronounced “owl”) released the plugin AIM Tunes, which allows users to listen to, but not download, music shared by their buddies. It works similarly to iTunes’ shared libraries, but [anywhere on the planet]. No other program is required, however, as the music plays directly through AIM. DRM-infected files, such as those purchased from the iTunes Music Store, will not work with AIM Tunes. But hey, you should have known what you were getting yourself into when you bought those downsampled Fall Out Boy AACs. Enjoy your ringtones.

Using AIM to share music is hardly a new concept. Last May, a developer from AOL Greenhouse released a plugin called Buddy Tunes, which performs the same function as AIM Tunes, but requires users to run iTunes as well. And, years earlier, AIM introduced a far more powerful file-sharing tool called “Get Files.” By allowing users to set up a shared folder, AIM enables its users to download any files, regardless of size, that their buddies are sharing. This shared folder can be any folder on your computer, such as, perhaps, your automatically organized iTunes Music Library. And as you can limit your sharing to people on your Buddy List, there is very little risk of being caught by pesky RIAA agents (just don’t accept messages from the screen name “ReallyIsntAnAcronym”).

How long will it be until someone develops a program in the vein of MyTunes/getTunes/ourTunes that allows you to actually download the music streaming through AIM Tunes? Or does Get Files render AIM Tunes useless? Perhaps the one advantage to AIM Tunes is that it can easily be used to listen to your own music from anywhere, so long as you keep AIM running on your home computer. If you’re a Windows user, you can put AIM Tunes to the test yourself by downloading it here. If you’re a Mac user, I suggest you quietly continue to use Get Files in AIM 4.7 (released in 2004) and hope that AOL continues to forget about you, lol.

* Oh, AOL Instant Messenger. Got it.