AOL Instant Messenger To Shut Down After 20 Years

AIM was a pioneer of instant communications on the web, but its popularity has waned and now it will finally be retired

One of the pioneers of instant messaging on the Internet, at least in the consumer sphere, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is to stop working later this year – 20 years after it first debuted. 

In an era of dial-up Internet, AIM debuted in May 1997 and rapidly established itself as the most popular service in the US. For many, it was their first taste of instant text-based communications and it made a significant impact on popular culture. 

“If you were a 90’s kid, chances are there was a point in time when AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was a huge part of your life,” said Michael Albers, head of communications product at Oath (AOL’s Verizon-owned parent company). 


AOL Instant Messenger 

“You likely remember the CD, your first screenname, your carefully curated away messages, and how you organized your buddy lists. Right now you might be reminiscing about how you had to compete for time on the home computer in order to chat with friends outside of school.  

“You might also remember how characters throughout pop culture from ‘You’ve Got Mail’ to ‘Sex and the City’ used AIM to help navigate their relationships. In the late 1990’s, the world had never seen anything like it. And it captivated all of us.” 

It had stiff competition from the likes of MSN Messenger, particularly in Europe, but maintained its popularity throughout the 2000s. However the emergence of next-generation services and social networks such as Skype, Gmail, Facebook and WhatsApp contributed to AIM’s downfall. 

AOL effectively ceased development of AIM in 2012, although the service has operated since then with Oath providing support to its users. But like MSN before it, the plug has finally been pulled. 

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” added Albers. “As a result we’ve made the decision that we will be discontinuing AIM effective December 15, 2017. We are more excited than ever to continue building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products for users around the world.”