AOL Instant Messenger Says Goodbye

After more than 20 years service, the original instant messenger by AOL has retired.

AOL Instant Messenger AIM Closes Down
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

After more than 20 years service, the original instant messenger by AOL has retired.

If you remember fighting over whose turn it was to use the phone line, and the unmistakeable dial-up connection noise, then chances are you used AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) at some point. Launched in 1997, it wasn’t long before tens of millions of users around the globe found themselves setting up their AIM account. Referred to as “the pioneering chat app that taught us to text” by TechCrunch, the original instant messenger was a technological revolution for communication and online socializing.

However, it wasn’t long before rival services such as Microsoft’s MSN and Yahoo Messenger entered the picture, offering users more choices.

While AOL’s real problems began after Time Warner’s takeover (as explained here by TechNewsWorld), AOL simply did not flow with the moving trend toward smartphones, tablets, and apps. Cell phones got smarter, and social media companies moved in to revolutionize communication, yet AOL didn’t react — something which Michael Albers, VP of communications products at Oath (the company formed when Yahoo and AOL merged) recognizes.

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed.”

The final nail in the coffin for AOL’s Instant Messenger came three years ago when Apple announced that they were discontinuing support for AIM, as reported by the International Business Times.

Maybe one of the most memorable aspects of AOL Instant Messenger is people’s screen names. Whether you thought you were being cool or were simply oblivious to how the letters connected to form new, rude, and offensive words, there is certainly no shortage of embarrassing AIM screen name stories.

Messages of condolence soon appeared on social media, mourning the passing of a technology once new and exciting and now certain to be nothing more than a memory.

Some were even there to offer comfort during AIM’s final moments.

Reading the obituaries, you could be forgiven for thinking that people’s memories have been distorted by nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses. After all, AOL’s Instant Messenger had plenty of flaws, the largest of which centred on security issues, as covered here back in 2004 by Computerworld. But AIM really did change people’s lives — the fondness and love of which is more than apparent while reading the tributes.

So take this moment to say farewell, and thanks for the memories.