AIM Mail Launches

America Online launched its free Web-based email service this week with an online advertising campaign and a nationwide consumer sweepstakes.

AIM Mail, which AOL launched in beta last month, is an ad-supported service offering users two gigabytes of storage, plus spam and virus protection. Either 728×90 banner ads or 160×600 skyscrapers are displayed when the user reads or composes messages, or views the address book. Unlike Google’s Gmail, ads are not contextually targeted. AOL subscribers who use the similar Webmail service see the same ads, but placements are less prominent.

“While we cannot share internal business metrics, we can tell you that we have seen a 100 percent annual growth rate in ad sales for AIM over the past two years,” said AOL spokesperson Krista Thomas.

AIM has approximately 30 million unique visitors to AIM.com, and 20 million active users who send more than a billion instant messages every day, she said.

To promote the free AIM Mail service, AOL launched a sweepstakes for AIM users who activate their AIM Mail account. New users can register to become eligible to win daily prizes, including Starbucks gift cards, T-Mobile Sidekicks, Apple iPod Shuffles and Sony PlayStation Portables (PSPs). A 2005 MINI Cooper S is the grand prize.

AIM Mail’s interface and feature set are based on technology from Mailblocks, which AOL acquired in July 2004. Like Gmail, AIM Mail includes search capabilities to find mail in the inbox, as well as sent or stored messages.

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