America Online launched on Wednesday the latest version of its instant messaging software, expanding support for sharing pictures and adding several subscription-based features. As, AOL Instant Messenger 5.9 adds a collection of new features meant to encourage personalization of the messaging application, including animated buddy icons, sound effects and "wallpaper" images.
A handful of the personalization upgrades will be marketed via subscription, as AOL attempts to garner revenue from the software which it distributes for free via download. The company will charge $1.95 for a monthly subscription to its expanded package of personalization tools, dubbed as AIM Expressions, and offer a yearlong subscription to the service for $9.95. AOL is also selling its animated SuperBuddy icons for $1.95 each, or three for $4.95. The subscription IM business is part of AOL's overall strategy for revenue diversification to supplement its declining dial-up ISP business.