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AOL debuts AIM location finder

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AOL has introduced a free location plug-in for its AIM instant messaging service, enabling users to see where their AIM buddies are physically located, so long as they are connected via a wireless network.

Relax, it's not a tool for stalkers: AIM Location is optional and the information is shared only with members of an AOL user's buddy list.

AIM Location displays a list called "Near Me" featuring the names of contacts who opt to share their location. This information, along with distances up to a set limit, can be displayed on a MapQuest map.

The software is free of charge to users of AIM 6.0 and works with PCs. AOL also plans to release a version that will work on mobile phones.

The plug-in based on technology from Skyhook Wireless, a start-up backed by Intel among others. Skyhook's Wi-Fi Positioning System tracks locations using the wireless signals transmitted by Wi-Fi access points and home routers, rather than using a satellite-based location system. It matches information on the unique identifying code of a piece of wireless kit against a location contained in a database.

Skyhook built the database using a fleet of 200 vehicles to drive around the major population centres of America and Canada, collecting information via a process akin to war driving. ®

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