I guess the convergence between social networking services, like MySpace and LinkedIn, and Instant Messaging software is really starting to happen. And I don't think AOL is too late, neither is Microsoft. MySpace might have a huge userbase by now, but IM is a more natural and closer (desktop) starting point for online social networking. I'm sure the MySpace IM offering will succeed in certain demographics, but existing IM providers really have a huge advantage at the start of this battle.
"I totally believe that the buddylist is the center of the "universe 2.0", this new world we are in: denizens of a newly enhanced online experience. AOL has a chance to make a run at the untapped market for a significantly improved social networking experience. The LinkedIn generation of so-called professional social networking 1.0 apps are so lame that they are ripe for obliteration by a new approach, and as I have been trumpeting for years, the instant messaging buddylist should be the heart of such an approach. There is an opportunity to kill off some or all of those apps, if not MySpace and Facebook, and AOL has a good story brewing, even if they are reluctant to actually show us anything yet. Or at least me."
Oh, and I definitely like the feature Stowe mentions that "your buddies' presence indicates more than just on/off status. It can indicate new blog posts, they tell me." I haven't used my RSS reader for two months now, I believe that features like this one are showing how information will be presented and consumed in the near future. Not (only) through centralized inboxes and readers, but embedded in an environment where particular information is needed and relevant.