Stowe Boyd and Mike Arrington reported today that AOL’s new social networking product AIM Pages is now live. I'm told by my sources that it's still in the testing phase, nevertheless it *is* live on the Web. There is a lot more functionality to come though. For example PaidContent wrote recently:

"Unlike walled-garden Classic AOL, AIM Pages is built on giving users ways to collect and connect to various parts of the web — and each other — from one base. For instance, users can add a flickr module. “Our approach is not to get you to leave flickr but to super-set your stuff from flickr,” explained Parkins. Other modules focus on AOL content, like the Top 11 list from AOL Music; options will be limited at first with more modules being introduced on a rolling basis."

As Mike said, the design is very modular - and that extends not only to internal AIM Pages functionality, but also to external web services modules. From the AIM Pages homepage, click on 'Create your profle'. You will be taken to your profile page, click 'Add Modules' and then you will see a 'Module Gallery' at the top-left. The most interesting part in that gallery is the 'Under Construction' selection. It currently features modules like delicious, netflix and youtube - but there's a whole lot more to come!

Check out AOL's test 'playground' I Am Alpha to see what I mean. In there you'll see modules for popular web services such as: MySpace, YouTube, del.icio.us, Flickr, Amazon, eBay, MapQuest, Netflix, AOL apps, RSS feeds, plus plenty of other test modules. Now admittedly these are all very alpha quality modules (as the name implies), but it shows that AOL is ahead of the curve in integrating external services into its social networking offering. Note that I'm somewhat biased here, as Broadband Mechanics (who I do work for) was contracted by AOL to build the following external modules: NetFlix, Amazon, eBay, MySpace, Network for Good and Delicious. But still, I think you'll agree that AOL's willingness to hook into external web services is a very encouraging (and forward-thinking) break from the past for them. Tearing down those 90's Walled Gardens!

p.s. note that despite all the 'MySpace killer' theories out there, AIM Pages actually works *with* MySpace - in terms of having a module for it (in testing on I Am Alpha).

To try it out go to the I Am Alpha frontpage and click the 'playground!!' tab. You need to log in using your AOL id in order to play around - and this is the kind of page you can then create:

Below is a closer look at one of the modules, the Amazon one. As you can see, it shows your Wish List and you can click the tab to see your Amazon reviews.

You can then publish your page into a pretty basic-looking 'homepage', which is a test for AIM Pages. This is all very alpha right now and indeed what you see currently on AIM Pages is just a slice of the real goodies. But given more development and the inevitable marketing push, I think this will be a compelling product. It's a taste of what Internet portal homepages will be like in the future. As well as having social networking functionality, portals will integrate modules for popular web services and be able to communicate (and eventually transact) with those external services.