You may have noticed that you can no longer sign into AIM via Google Chat — that’s because Google has integrated AIM directly with Google Talk for single-login goodness. The integration went live last week, but you had to manually add all your AIM buddies to Google Talk if you wanted to contact them. Luckily, AIM now has a tool that will automatically import all your buddies for you.
Importing Your Contacts
The Upsides: You Only Need One Login; You Get AIM on Android
The Main idea behind the switch is that you won’t have to deal with two separate logins within Gmail from now on. The other really cool part about this is that you can log into both protocols from one IM client. Since nearly every IM client under the sun has both GTalk and AIM, this isn’t a big deal for desktop users, but it does mean that Android users can now IM their AIM buddies right from Google’s official GTalk app, which is great, since it’s probably the best IM client on Android.
The Downsides: It’s Confusing and Kind of Buggy
Unfortunately, the whole implementation still seems confusing at best, and buggy at worst. Your AIM buddies will no longer see your AIM screen name when you log in; instead it will create a new contact for them using your Gmail address. However, I had the problem where some of my contacts weren’t even showing up in the sidebar — some were only showing their Google Talk contacts, some were showing only AIM, and some were showing up twice, like they used to (though some showed up after a small wait, so perhaps it just takes awhile for everything to register). It’s not combining them, either (which would be awesome)—it’s just excluding some contacts from my buddy list entirely. In addition, the 48 contact limit for the importer is kind of a drag if you have a lot of AIM buddies.
If you use a desktop IM client, of course, you’ll be unaffected by all this, and can continue using GTalk and AIM separately. In fact, we’d recommend doing so. Unless you’re really itching to get AIM in the Gmail web interface or on Android’s Talk app, using a desktop client is still the easiest way to get access to both, and we’d recommend against importing your AIM contacts into Gmail — at least for now. Have you tried the new AIM integration in Gmail? How does it work for you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.