AOL plans to move further into portal territory by means of integrating e-mail into its popular AOL Instant Messenger service. The service will be called AIM Mail, and will compete against the likes of Yahoo, Microsoft and Google. The service will afford users 2GB of storage, spam and anti-virus protection, with the additional provision of an interface that lets users drag and drop messages to organize and save them in folders.

America Online Inc. is expected to release AIM Mail later on Wednesday as part of an updated beta of AIM 5.9, the next version of the IM client. The e-mail service follows AOL's test last year of a revamped Webmail service targeted to subscribers.

AIM Mail will be based on AIM screen names and the domain. AOL's existing base of 21 million active AIM users can use their current screen names as e-mail addresses and access the mail service once they download AIM 5.9. New users also can start e-mail accounts when they install AIM 5.9.