AIM, AOL’s hugely popular instant messenger service that was a coming-of-age internet experience for many in the late 1990s and early 2000s, will officially shut down on Dec. 15.
In a statement on the decision, the company says, “AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed. As a result we’ve made the decision that we will be discontinuing AIM.”
Reactions on Twitter ranged from sadness to nostalgia to surprise that the service still exists.
AIM and its signature yellow running man launched in 1997 and was one of the first widely used free chat services. “Instant messages allow communication that is faster than e-mail but more personal than a chat room,” a USA Today piece from 1999 marveled. AIM fought for users against competitors like MSN Messenger, which shut down in 2014, and Yahoo Instant Messenger, which discontinued service in 2016 but later revamped with the same name. Over the past decade, though, AIM has experienced upheavals, from the major cuts in its staff in 2012 to Verizon’s $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL in 2015. And with texting, Gchat, Facebook, and others stepping in as the primary forms of communication for the AIM generation and beyond, it’s no surprise that these instant messaging services are closing shop.
Users can salvage mementos from their chat logs by downloading files and images from AIM before its door closes. But people who want to save their Buddy Lists full of emo screen names and eRraTiC LetTeR CaSInG are out of luck. Perhaps these bits of nostalgia, like those carefully curated quotes and song lyrics as away messages, are best sent the way of Friendster and Nokia phones.