Updated: changed some stuff around after playing with Pages a bit longer.
If AIM Pages launched today as a stand alone company with no affiliation to AOL, I’d be ripping it apart. Personal publishing is very easy, and users have too many choices. Anything new really has to stand out, and AIM Pages doesn’t. AIM Pages is a slick looking Ajax product, but is not really raising the bar v. Myspace, Tagworld and others. I’m also dissapointed that it’s not working properly in Firefox. Now, the fact that your AIM Page will be prepopulated with your AIM buddies is a big competitive advantage, and I imagine AIM will have some level of success due to that asset.
I'm a few minutes into testing the product, so here's some quick thoughts.
I have to disagree with Michael here, and agree with Jason Calacanis: AIM Pages is absolutely the best social networking software that's out there right now. It shares a lot of the same features as TagWorld, but is much faster and easier to actually get stuff done than TagWorld is. I love TagWorld to death, and have always viewed it as the underdog fighting the big bully in MySpace, but AOL just jumped directly into the fray with a thundering shot that will be heard 'round the world.
Customizing your profile is far easier than MySpace, and just a bit easier than TagWorld. Everything is done via AJAX, and it's pretty intuitive as far as profile editors go. I completely overhauled my profile in three minutes, doing things that would have taken me at least an hour searching through various third-party MySpace Custom Profile sites to complete.
Adding buddies/friends is super easy. You click Edit on that section, and it'll tell you which of your buddies from your AIM screen name are eligible for inclusion on your list. If they have an AIM Page, they're eligible and can be added immediately. If they don't (which is the case for 99% of my buddies right now), they're listed under ineligible, but it gives you the option of sending out an IM to let them know they can create a profile. I expect that within a week, most people using AIM will have already set up a Page and the network will grow to massive proportions quite quickly.
Setting up a photo album is also easy. You can browse your computer for photos, post pictures from the AOL network, or even include photos sent to you via AOL Albums. Everything is done via a nice drag-n-drop interface. Oh, and there's a Flickr module if you're not satisfied with the AOL options. I dropped the Flickr module in, added my username and how many photos I wanted to show, and instantly had my Flickr gallery showing on my profile.
Styling your page and even each individual module is cookie-cutter simple. They've got tons of overall themes to style the main look of your site with, and each section can by recolored, have individual fonts, and more. You can design your own themes, of course, but the preset ones are pretty decent as well.
AOL has included modules for just about everything you can think of, from sports and weather all the way down to the ability to include RSS feeds. They're also proving that they "get it" with the inclusion of stuff like Del.icio.us links and Flickr photos. I don't know how much effect Jason Calacanis is really having over there, but good lord, they've changed so much since he joined the company that there HAS to be something going on that we're not aware of.
MySpace wasn't the first and it surely isn't the best, but it has a userbase that is very, very large and extremely dedicated. AIM Pages is certainly the best social networking software out there today, surpassing TagWorld quite quickly and making MySpace look like a 1995 website in comparison. Great job, AOL, for continuing to prove that you are open and honest, embracing standards that even the "cool" companies like Google are starting to lose sight of.