Back in 1997 when the internet was still young and innocent, AOL had a little service called AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). It allowed users to communicate over an internet connection in real time for free, something we take for granted nowadays with services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, and even iMessage. Now, as newer ways of communicating have surfaced, AOL says AIM has done its job and will retire the nostalgic service this December 15th. The company announced the shutdown in a blog post today.
If you were a 90’s kid, chances are there was a point in time when AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was a huge part of your life. You likely remember the CD, your first screenname, your carefully curated away messages, and how you organized your buddy lists. Right now you might be reminiscing about how you had to compete for time on the home computer in order to chat with friends outside of school. You might also remember how characters throughout pop culture from “You’ve Got Mail” to “Sex and the City” used AIM to help navigate their relationships. In the late 1990’s, the world had never seen anything like it. And it captivated all of us.
AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed. As a result we’ve made the decision that we will be discontinuing AIM effective December 15, 2017. We are more excited than ever to continue building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products for users around the world.
This is truly the end of an era. After being online for twenty years, AIM is finally retiring in favor of more modern ways of messaging. And there’s a ton of those: Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Apple, and others all have ways of instant messaging, and I can’t remember the last time someone actually used AIM instead of a more modern solution. Sure, AOL’s messaging platform has pretty much been hanging out for the past fifteen years or so, but it was there for those who liked to reminisce about the beginning of the instant messaging era. Now, the time has come to say goodbye and send “one last away message,” as Michael Albers, vice president of communications products at Oath (the new owner of both AOL and Verizon) puts it.
So go honor our dying friend. Go login, check your buddy list, and start typing. I can’t promise anyone’s gonna respond, but maybe your mom will.