If you think you can't escape instant messaging now, just wait until it goes wireless. AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL) is teaming up with Verizon(NYSE: VZ) to give Verizon Wireless customers text access to their America Online Buddy Lists.

The message here? This is more than just the country's leading Internet provider hooking up with the country's leading wireless carrier. It's two companies trying to differentiate their products at a time when communication services are a commodity.

America Online longs for the good old days when it had exclusive content and a captive audience. As information flooded the Web, it became harder to grow a subscriber base when users were defecting to bargain-priced Internet service providers.

AOL's trying to recapture some of that magic, and it's smart enough to realize that folks who use the AOL Instant Messenger and have a cellular account with Verizon will be less likely to say "goodbye" in favor of another online provider.

Both stocks could use a little good news right now. Verizon stock has been halved over the past year, and AOL Time Warner's carnage has been even worse. So this new venture is interesting. It hooks the anchors deep into both America Online and Verizon subscribers, and it's viral in that it plays off Buddy Lists, possibly winning defectors from either camp back into the family.