Technology

AOL Instant Messenger Shuts Down After 20 Years of Service

AOL Instant Messenger was a staple of early internet communication, and after 20 years of service the app is finally shutting down.

AOL Instant Messenger

AOL Instant Messenger

For those who started using the internet in the 1990s and early 2000s, the landscape of the world wide web was far different than it is today. While we currently have a plethora of options when it comes to online communication, our options back then were much more limited. AOL instant messenger was one of the first widely adopted online messaging programs, and it served as the primary way for many of us to connect to our friends around the world.

Unfortunately, as of today, December 15th, AOL instant messenger is now a thing of the past. While the messaging client ended up with a longer lifespan than competitors MSN instant messenger and Yahoo instant messenger, it’s clear that a massive shift in the way that people communicate is responsible for the shuttering of this service.

Michael Albers, a communications products vice president at Oath (the verizon company that absorbed AOL,) elaborated on the company’s decision to shut down the beloved messaging client.

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed.” This change is the driving factor behind AOL’s decision. While instant messaging was a staple in the early internet scene, it’s no longer as necessary with the ubiquity of new ways to communicate.

A Cultural Legacy

In a response to Ars Technica, Dex Polizzi of Montclair, New Jersey, reminisced on the significant cultural impact of AIM.

“Looking purely at language, as perhaps the most obvious and flexible of cultural indicators, AIM ushered in a massive influx of tech-speak into the modern vernacular. So much of the tech-related language and the schemes we use to continue to develop tech-language today has its foundation in the AIM era—lol. If we look at the demographics of today’s world, so many people in business and culture today came of age in the AIM era. AIM laid the foundation for the way that we all talk, communicate, define and understand the world around us, technology and beyond, as digital natives.”

Back in March, AOL cut off connections to AOL instant messenger from third-party chat clients. This was to be a sign of things to come, and it wasn’t really a surprise that the company was finally pulling the plug on the under-utilized service.

With how widespread text messaging has become, combined with the popularity of services like Facebook Messenger and other forms of social media, it just doesn’t make as much sense to have a dedicated client like AOL’s service.

AOL instant messenger shutting down closes the door on a nostalgic period of early internet communication. With carefully crafted away messages and a social network of friends from all around the world, AIM provided an experience and opportunity to stay connected when there weren’t many other alternatives.