AOL’s Secret Video Chat Service Now Public

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Just two days after Microsoft officially announced it would purchase Skype, AOL went public with its new, free video chat service. It’s funny (and perhaps not so coincidental) how things happen, right?

TechCrunch leaked the service last week, which was sent only to employees of AOL, but now its beta round is open to all.

AOL’s system – called AV – is different from other video chat stalwarts, namely Skype and Google Chat.  For starters, there’s no login or download required to access the service. Users receive their own personal chat link, send to the people (up to four) they want to chat with, and voilà!

Other features include text-based chat and the ability of the chat’s creator to remove others from the conversation. Jason Shellen, a leader of the AIM instant messenger team responsible for the service, told the Associated Press that additional features will arrive in the coming weeks. One, called “Group Shot,” will allow users to take photos of the people participating in the chat.

On the downside, the service uses Flash software, which means it won’t work on an iPhone or iPad.

Shellen said they are looking to make the service available for other platforms and as a mobile app.

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