It’s a sad moment: AIM, AOL’s long-running instant messenger service that was core to many people’s first social experiences on the internet, will shut down once and for all on December 15th. AOL announced the shutdown today, acknowledging that people now communicate in new ways online, so AIM is no longer needed.
“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” writes Michael Albers, communications products VP at Oath (the Verizon behemoth that consumed AOL).
AOL cut off access to AIM from third-party chat clients back in March, hinting at this eventual shutdown. It’s hard to imagine that many people are still using AIM, so that change, nor this upcoming shutdown, are likely to make a huge difference.
AIM was one of the first and most successful instant messengers, widely used in the late ‘90s and even throughout the 2000s. I was still using AIM to chat with my friends throughout college at the end of the decade, including to stay in touch with my (not-yet) significant other while she was studying abroad.
But with the proliferation of smartphones, everything has changed. Text messaging has taken over for desktop instant messaging apps, and increasingly, we’re seeing other social apps, like Snapchat and Instagram, take over for those in certain ways. For straight messaging, Facebook also makes things much easier, since you’re already connected to everyone you know and can just start up a chat without exchanging arcane things like screen names. In fact, Facebook has multiple billion-user messaging services at this point, Messenger and WhatsApp.
Other classic chat apps have shut down in recent years, too. MSN Messenger shut down in 2014, and Yahoo Messenger shut down last year (although Yahoo also launched a new messaging service under the same name). It was only a matter of time until AIM joined them, but there’s still some nostalgia in seeing it go.
With AIM on its way out the door, now’s your last chance to write that perfect away message.