AOL Instant Messenger, the chat app that was a hallmark of the fledgling Internet-era in the 1990s, is about to come to an end. AOL is shutting down AIM on Dec. 15. No more buddy lists; say goodbye to that screen name that screamed, “Hey, I was 13 years old when I created this account!”
The death of AOL Instant Messenger, which began in 1997, marks the end of an era—and a nostalgic reminder of a time when the Internet was a shiny, new, and uncharted territory that the masses were just beginning to explore.
AOL sent notices to past and current users of the service, and posted a message on the AIM help page, explaining why it’s shutting down the service:
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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. 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.
There is not currently a replacement product available for AIM, Oath (formerly AOL) said Friday. “As we move forward, all of us at AOL (now Oath) are excited to continue bringing you new, iconic products and experiences.”
Of course there are still plenty of real-time messaging applications that have grown in popularity and overshadow AOL IM now. Slack and Yammer are essential tools for businesses, others use Google Chat or Hangouts, Microsoft’s Skype, Twitter’s direct message feature, Facebook Messenger and even LinkedIn.
But nothing quite compares to AIM—at least for people of a certain age (me included). News of its impending death was perhaps shrugged off by some. But for those who were frequent users of AIM in the late 1990s and through the turn of the century, AIM’s death was met with sadness, and in some cases, disbelief that it was still in service.
It was also one of the first chat tools used by people during a crisis to instantly connect with friends and families when phone lines were down.
AIM’s demise syncs up with the rise of Facebook messenger, Slack, Google Hangout/Chat and other services. One critical moment for AIM was in 2014 when Apple’s Messages app for OS X (previously known as iChat) stopped support for AIM. The aging messaging protocol, already in decline, slid further.