America Online Inc. gave its AOL.com home page a face-lift today, with changes designed to streamline the site's appearance and make services like e-mail and instant messaging more readily available.
The new site gives pride of place to AOL Mail, which now allows members to enter their log-in information directly at the top of the home page. Also featured prominently are MYAOL.com, a new service where users can build a customized page of news, weather and other information, and AOL's recently launched My Calendar program.
The new site also includes a Web-based version of AOL's Instant Messenger chat software. Called Quick Buddy, the program uses a downloadable Java applet that lets users run the service on any computer fitted with a Web browser.
Previously, users had to download the chat software to their hard drive and run it from there.
AOL Mail is the only service on the revamped home page available exclusively to AOL members, said AOL spokeswoman Marta Grutka.
Taken together, the features are part of a strategy to make the home page available from any computer, be it at home, work or school. AOL also wants to make its services accessible from a range of emerging Web-enabled products, including televisions, mobile phones and handheld computers, officials said.
"Our research shows that our members want to use their AOL e-mail, My Calendar, AOL Instant Messenger, and other valued features wherever they are. The new AOL.com site brings us even closer to our goal of bringing 'AOL Anywhere,'" Jonathan Sacks, an AOL senior vice president, said in a statement.
In other changes, AOL revamped Hometown, a service that lets users publish personal Web pages and register them in a public directory where other Web surfers can access them.
"Before, nonmembers could browse through the directory but they couldn't register their own pages in Hometown. With this relaunch, AOL Hometown allows non-AOL members to publish and register at the site," Grutka said.
Other features include a search engine, which has been bumped lower down on the page, and ShopAOL, which has links to popular online retailers.
AOL, in Dulles, Virginia, can be reached at +1-703-448-8700 or at http://www.aol.com/.