AOL proposes

America Online said Wednesday that it launched a preview of its upcoming Web personals service, which aims to ride the company's success with instant-messaging software into the lucrative Internet dating sector.

The giant Internet service provider (ISP) announced last month that it was building the so-called real-time personals site by pairing up the functionality and widespread distribution of its AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) application with the burgeoning popularity of online personals.

Web-based dating networks have proven increasingly profitable as businesses including InterActiveCorp's, Yahoo and Friendster have convinced millions of people to look for potential mates online., the current leader of Web personals industry, reported $48.3 million in revenue last quarter, up 44 percent from a year earlier. AOL said will allow subscribers to browse other users' profiles, see which individuals are online, and communicate via AIM.

Other features of the service will include free personals information posting, AIM account linking--which gives people the ability to create unique AIM screen names and e-mail accounts related to the site--region-specific content and wireless access, which is slated to go live in 2004. The current trial gives people 60 days of free access to the site.

"Online personals powered by instant messaging are a natural next-step in the evolution of online dating services," Steven McArthur, executive vice president for AOL Messaging, said in a statement.

News source: MSNBC - America Online proposes

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