Imo.im, an instant message services aggregator, has just launched a Facebook application that turns your Facebook friends into IM friends. In other words, you can now IM with your Facebook friends directly through Imo.im without having to use AIM, GTalk, or other standard IM services.
There could be a bigger trend here. I wonder if services that pair social network data with IM will eventually render AIM and other IM services obsolete. More on that in a moment.
Pairing social networks with IM: Imo.im, Social.im, and 8hands
First, more details on Imo.im’s new service. You and your friends need to install and open the Imo.im application in order to use it. See screenshot, above.
Other startups are also experimenting with the idea of pairing social network data with IM. Social.im just launched a similar service this week (our coverage). It’s a desktop application for Facebook IM, currently available for Windows. Both Social.im and Imo.im rely on users installing their respective Facebook applications in order to access who your friends are. Note: Early Googler Georges Harik is both an angel investor in Social.im as well as a cofounder and angel investor in Imo.im (our coverage).
Another competitor, 8hands already claims to turn a number of social web sites, including MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube into IM friends. I became aware of the company due to a snarky comment it left on my post on Social.im. Strangely, Myspace and other sites it claims to work with don’t offer ways for third-party developers to extract lists of friends. I’m not sure how its service works and I haven’t had the chance to try it out, as it’s a desktop Windows application and I’m on a Mac. Please try it out and let me know what you think in the comments section. Meanwhile, I’m trying to contact the company for more details.
Imo.im, meanwhile, wants to be the place you go for all your IMing needs. It already lets you aggregate all of your standard IM services. You sign into the site through Gtalk, AIM, MSN or Yahoo, then you can “link” all of these services, so that when you sign into one — say, Gtalk — you sign into them all. It also includes a convenient webcam feature.
Other social networks, like Bebo, are also introducing application programming interfaces that let third-party developers extract data about you and your friends, that can be used on other sites. I expect these IM services to integrate with social networks that open up.
Why might social network data, together with IM, replace AIM, GTalk?
If you want to add a new contact into your list of IM contacts on AIM and other services, you need to do it manually. With imo.im services, friending somebody on Facebook means you don’t need to separately add them as an IM friend — you’re killing two birds with one stone. Even Google’s method of automatically turning your Gmail contacts into Gtalk contacts works one contact at a time.
Of course, the lasting power of existing IM services is already clear, as AIM has been around since the 90’s, and it is still popular today. Gtalk, a more recent arrival, seems to be gaining IM market share, however, largely — from what I can tell — through integrating with Gmail. As younger generations grow up with their social lives revolving around social networks, maybe they’ll find it easiest to just turn their friends into IM friends.