We knew it was going to happen one of these days; with all this talk about telling everyone where you are, from Twitter maps to Dodgeball, it was only a matter of time before a mainstream instant-messaging service decided to integrate location-based features. Well, now we have it. Sort of.
A company called Skyhook Wireless, which appears to specialize in location-based Wi-Fi data services, has built a plugin for AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) that will allow you to share your location through Skyhook's Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) -- kind of an alternative to GPS. (Skyhook also created the Loki software--you can see Rafe's video demo here.)
With this plugin, you can opt in or out of sharing your location to other AIM users to let them know where you are. You can also check out the locations of other AIM users running the Skyhook plugin. Then you can find out how far away you are, chart your buddies on a MapQuest map, or discover who's closest to you geographically. So, like so many other things, this plugin will really only be useful if a sizable number of people are implementing it.
Attention Mac, Linux, and Vista users: AIM Location requires AIM 6.0, which is available only to Windows 2000 and XP. But if you fall under that category, you can get the plugin at Download.com.
I should note that while this is not an official add-on, AIM is hosting it, and I did hear about it thanks to a tip from an AOL publicist. Interpret that as you will.