AOL Triton (beta)
AOL recently released an early beta version of its newest instant messenger program, code-named Triton. The beta doesn't yet include all of the features currently available in AIM 5.9, and several beta revs are expected in the coming months. When finalized, Triton will consolidate a number of new services into one interface, as well as the features currently available in AIM 5.9, which AOL plans to revise again later this year before a final version of Triton is rolled out. AOL hasn't assigned a definitive launch date for Triton, but we recommend that you not hold your breath.
Upside: Based on what we've seen so far from Triton, a number of the new features seem promising. Tabs are all the rage right now, and AOL jumped on the bandwagon by incorporating a tabbed interface that consolidates IM, voice chat, and mobile messaging. Eventually, users will be able to launch video IM sessions, share files and images, and play games with their buddies--all from the tabbed window. Also, if you're chatting with multiple users simultaneously, all of their chats will be contained in the same window, with a tab for each user. This saves precious screen acreage, as opposed to the current system where each chat lives in its own window.
Another new feature is Quicknote. When you double-click a name in your Buddy list, a window pops up that shows any information that your buddy has made public, including e-mail address, IM username, and phone number. IM Catcher is a new feature in which a single window fields all incoming messages, allowing you to filter out and ignore spam messages (or people you're tired of chatting with). Finally, expanding on its PC-to-PC VoIP component, Triton will include Advanced AOL Talk, which enables multiparty talk sessions, basically a conference call.
Downside: As with any beta version, final details, including price, are subject to change. So far, all of these features are free, but there's always the possibility that AOL will decide to charge for advanced features. One of our reviewers had a problem with the ad that lives in the Buddy list window. The ad would hijack her browser window every few minutes and open an ad for an upcoming movie release. At this point, it's hard to say what's causing that problem.
Outlook: The new features of Triton sound great--so far. Whether it succeeds will depend on what AOL decides to do about pricing. Keep in mind that the beta version is still skeletal, and beta revs are being rolled out on an ongoing basis. AOL advises that only testers, hard-core fans, and developers use Triton at this time.