In a few months, AOL Instant Messenger will go the way of such tech touchstones as AltaVista and Netscape. It was 20 years ago that “AIM” went online. It quickly exploded in popularity, peaked and then slowly succumbed to competitors.
For many of us, AIM conjures up memories of dial-up modems, the sound of a “handshake” and the phrase “You’ve Got Mail.”
“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” says Michael Albers, vice president of communications product at Oath Inc., a subsidiary of Verizon Communications that brought AOL and Yahoo together into a single unit earlier this year.
On Twitter, a social media platform that in no small way contributed to AIM’s demise, people seemed a bit nostalgic but not terribly surprised.
“You likely remember the CD, your first screenname, your carefully curated away messages, and how you organized your buddy lists,” Albers says. “In the late 1990’s, the world had never seen anything like it. And it captivated all of us.”
In fact, by 2001, AIM had captivated about 100 million of us worldwide, but as Techcrunch.com writes:
“It battled for supremacy with competitors like ICQ, and messengers from Yahoo and Microsoft MSN. But eventually text messaging, Google’s GChat and Facebook took over, while AIM never fully figured out the shift to mobile. That led to AOL’s fall from grace, going from being valued at $224 billion in today’s money to just $4.4 billion when it was sold to Verizon in 2015. For context on the business AOL let slip away, WhatsApp sold that same year to Facebook for more than $19 billion.”
“We know there are so many loyal fans who have used AIM for decades; and we loved working and building the first chat app of its kind since 1997,” AOL writes on the AIM help page. “Our focus will always be on providing the kind of innovative experiences consumers want. We’re more excited than ever to focus on building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products.”
If you still have an AIM account, you can keep using it until December 15. After that, you will no longer be able to sign on.