AOL Instant Messenger Ends 20-Year Run
AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was officially shut down on Friday after 20 years in action. Verizon’s Oath previously announced in October that Dec. 15 would be the platform’s last day. The company had already removed third-party support in March, cutting off many access points.
AOL was acquired by Verizon in June 2015 for $4.4 billion. This was followed by the company’s purchase of Yahoo’s Internet assets for $4.48 billion last June. Verizon merged AOL and Yahoo into a new company, Oath.
A statement from the company said, “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.” No plans have been announced for a replacement or transition. Oath has also shut down the CompuServe forums.
AIM helped establish the internet as a place to hang out and socialize with friends. The platform is now being eulogized with hashtags on Twitter, photos on Instagram, and farewell events organized on Facebook. A marketing agency has created a website to allow AIM fans to keep their screen names alive forever.
Launching in 1997, AIM marked an era before Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. Many of the people who grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s had social lives that revolved around the messaging service. They took time to carefully choose the fonts, colors, and quotes for their AIM profiles to represent them to the world. AIM was responsible for codifying many aspects of online messaging and how people speak online, including terms like BRB, LOL, ROFL, TTYL, LMAO, OMG, and SRY.
Many of the social networks and messaging applications that now define the internet came from entrepreneurs who grew up using AIM. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that AIM was a lifeline to school friends who lived on the other side of a bridge in nearby towns. Biz Stone, a cofounder of Twitter, said, “Twitter was inspired, to a degree, by the, ‘away message’ in AIM.”
AIM was once as omnipresent on the internet as services like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger are today. The service’s decline can be traced to that of AOL itself. As users shifted to smartphones and tablets, AIM failed to move with them. By the beginning of 2017, the number of active AIM users had fallen to a fraction of its peak.