By MICHAEL LIEDTKE
The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 5, 2007; 7:09 PM
SAN FRANCISCO -- AOL is providing the newest communications channel on Google.
Fulfilling a pledge made two years ago, Google Inc. this week unveiled a feature that enables people to chat on AOL's instant messaging service through "Gmail" _ the popular search company's free e-mail service.
Not all Gmail users can get at the instant message service yet because Mountain View-based Google is still rolling out the coding that includes the settings to log on to AOL instant messaging, or AIM. Google officials didn't set a timetable for making AIM available to all its Gmail users.
It took a long time to get this far. Google first disclosed its plans to open its doors to AIM in December 2005 when it paid $1 billion for a 5 percent stake in Time Warner Inc.'s AOL.
But the plan went on the back burner while Google engineers worked on myriad other projects, said Mike Jazayeri, a senior product manager for Google.
Adding access to AOL's instant messaging service may help Google attract more people to its e-mail service, which has been gaining ground on its larger rivals.
Gmail had 87 million users worldwide in October, a 64 percent increase from the same time last year, according to comScore Media Metrix. That still ranked a distant third behind Yahoo's e-mail, which had 262 million users worldwide, and Microsoft's e-mail, which had 256 million users.
AOL also ranked third in the worldwide instant messaging standings with 35.4 million users in October, Media Metrix said. Microsoft's instant messaging services had nearly 223 million users followed by Yahoo instant messaging at 97 million.