If all goes as planned, by the time you’re reading this the new version of the AOL.com homepage will be live — complete with new themes and full-fledged lifestreaming. I’ve been playing with the demo version a bit tonight, creating a mix that includes my Gmail, AIM, AOL (NYSE: TWX) mail and Facebook. A Twitter tab promises that the module is coming; other options include Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) mail, AOL’s Bebo and MySpace. (Twitter and Bebo are being turned on last.) The ability to access third-party e-mail, added in early September, was the first of the social/life management features. The direct video playback and photo galleries are slated to launch over the weekend. Page tour is here.
— AOL says the impact is already being felt, pointing to the September numbers from comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) Media Metrix. Traffic to AOL.com is up 34 percent in September year over year; uniques are up 3.2 million, or 11 percent; and total minutes are up 40 percent. The number of people selecting AOL.com as their home page jumped by 500,000, according to internal stats. EVP Bill Wilson says that they registered over one million instances of users “hovering” over the Yahoo Mail panel on AOL.com daily to either sign-in for the first time or preview Yahoo Mail. Of those, a full 15 percent go directly to Yahoo Mail from the preview panel to compose mail. Similarly, we are seeing over 400,000 instances a day of users hovering over the Gmail panel on aol.com.”
— The new front page also includes an RSS reader via the Sphere acquisition and a new local module powered by acquisition Relegence (real-time local news as well as weather, gas prices, lottery numbers.) Other additions include the ability to add external bookmarks at the top of the page and to change AOL’s own navigation lineup through drag and drop — but users can switch to the classic version if they prefer.
— The direct video playback and photo galleries are slated to launch over the weekend. Users of AOL through partners like *Sony* and HP won’t see the changes until early November so partners can vet the changes.