AOl Instant Messenger is no more. Earlier in October of this year, Oath, the conglomerate created by the merging of internet companies Yahoo and America Online, announced that the stalwart messaging service once popular with everyone from college students to business teams would be shut down forever. Set to close on December 15th of this year, that date has come and gone and the service is now officially dead.
During its 20 year run, the message service likely facilitated billions of messages thanks to its widespread popularity. AOL Instant Messenger, or simply AIM for short, first came into being as most remember it back in May of 1997. Initially bundled with the rest of AOL’s internet browsing software, the May release enabled users to have the messaging program as a standalone piece of software. At the time it held the largest market share for instant messaging services throughout North America. In fact, around 52 percent IM software users within the United States used AOL’s offering as late as 2006. Outside of ICQ, AIM faced little competition for the better part of a decade.
In an effort to keep up with the rising popularity and ubiquity of cellphones, AOL released a mobile version of the software in 2008. It was not strictly an innovation, as third-party developers had found ways to enable AIM on cellphones as early as 2002. Still, the release represented an effort on AOL’s part to remain relevant in an increasingly changing marketplace. The app, which enabled users to send IMs by way of SMS, never approached the popularity of its desktop parent, perhaps further signalling the rapidly declining importance of AOL as a player in the online world.
With Gmail and Google Chat hitting the scene in 2011, AIM’s latter days officially began. The software saw a sharp dropoff in users, which was also likely related to the rise of Facebook and its own accompanying messaging service. The second half of that year saw AIM’s market share shrink to a dismal 0.73 percent, demonstrating the program’s redundancy in a world rife with other social media and communication platforms.
By 2012 AOL purged the software’s staff but left the original program and its mobile equivalent still available for download. There it languished until this week, when AIM was unceremoniously laid to rest. While AOL Instant Messenger is no more, the program filled a communications niche for its time, and its iconic Running Man logo will be nostalgically remembered by many former users for years to come.