As previously reported, the relaunch includes a Web-based version of the popular AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service. AIM Quick Buddy, as the new product is called, is a Java applet that allows users to access their buddy lists on any Web-enabled PC. Instead of loading previously downloaded software on a PC hard drive, users can go to the Web site to chat with other AIM users.
Along with Quick Buddy, the site prominently features AOL's online calendar service My Calendar; its Web-based email service, AOL Mail; and its My AOL content personalization page.
"Our research shows that our members want to use their AOL email, My Calendar, AOL Instant Messenger and other valued features wherever they are," Jonathan Sacks, senior vice president of AOL Interactive Services, said in a statement. "The new AOL.com site brings us even closer to our goal of bringing 'AOL Anywhere.'"
Contrary to portal convention, the site puts search in a secondary position and diminishes the presence of so-called content channels. In addition, it gives more space to the company's Shop@AOL e-commerce service, which resides below the search section.
The relaunch marks AOL's latest effort to retain its existing members and lure potential new members to its branded services. Although AOL's Web sites--including Netscape's Netcenter, ICQ.com and Digital City--collectively constitute the largest Web audience, portal heavyweight Yahoo follows close behind, according to Media Metrix.
AOL executives in the past have said they want to curb their users from leaving their services to perform popular tasks such as search or free email.
AOL.com's relaunch makes it the latest AOL Web property to undergo an appearance change. Its Netcenter portal also was recently redesigned.