Bravo. That's a great way to encourage word-of-mouth marketing by the thousands of people who leave Instant Messenger open all day long. Although other sites have been doing this already, FOXSports is the first big-name site that's jumped on the bandwagon, to my knowledge.
A few thoughts on this technique:
- Their current solution works well as a single-click step, but in the long run, a more generic "IM this story" would be a better service. A second screen could let users select the instant-messaging software they used and send the message from there. Of course, it's possible AOL paid FOXSports to include this feature on each story page, in which case the business decision of money vs. user-friendliness is Fox's to make.
- The FOXSports link uses the AOL-proprietary
aim:protocol. Using that protocol assumes the user has either installed AOL Instant Messenger or messed with obscure parameters to get the
aim:protocol to work correctly in a browser. Do Web junkies like you and me know this? Yes. Does Uncle Fred realize his computer must have AIM installed in order to use such a link? Not necessarily. At the very least, the link should say something like "Requires AOL Instant Messenger," or even "Requires AIM," with a link to download the program.
aim:protocol was valid on the user's computer, and then display the link only if it were available. But I Googled and hacked around, and there doesn't seem to be a way to detect available protocols in a browser. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) You'd think those security-conscious folks at Microsoft would have thought to put a