When Google radically changed its iGoogle homepage a little while ago, many of its users were up in arms about these changes. By updating its homepage today, AOL ran a similar risk, but instead of making radical changes to the design of the page, AOL managed to include a lot of new functionality on the new homepage without shocking its users with a completely new layout. The new features of the AOL homepage are mostly centered around adding support for third-party social networking services.

We first reported about rumors of this update in early September and today's update confirms our earlier reports.

Customization and Widgets for Social Networks

AOL users can now see updates from AIM, Facebook, and MySpace right on the homepage. Support for Bebo and Twitter is coming soon. This move comes just a few weeks after AOL also allowed its users to check mail from third-party email services right from the homepage.

The most interesting update is probably the inclusion of a prominent RSS reader widget at the bottom of the homepage.

The new AOL homepage also allows users to customize the main navigation bar with bookmarks, local news, and RSS feeds. AOL Mail has also been updated to match the look and feel of the new homepage.

AOL also announced that it will now give advertisers the option to offer customized wallpapers for the homepage and more rich media content through AOL's Platform A.

Is Traffic to AOL.com Growing?

According to AOL, year-over-years visits to AOL.com grew 15%, while total minutes were up 40%. It should be noted, however, that both Compete and Google Trends show a downwards trend over the last year.

While it might be hard to get excited about new features on AOL, it is good to see that the company is bringing more social networking and customization features to its user base.