Boy, have I got a not-so-shocking, yet still sad announcement for ya’ll. On December 15, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) will no longer be available for users, according to TechCrunch.com. *gasp* The chat service, which debuted in 1997, will no longer be supported on any operating system. Can you all believe AIM has been around for 20 years? While I haven’t used the platform in over 14 years probably, I can’t help but be dismayed by its departure. For most of us, I am sure AIM was our first “chat” experience online. Before we say goodbye, let’s take a look back at AIM and the influence it had on our typing skills, connection with people via the internet and unforgettable screen names.
I first remember using AIM as part of the desktop program – meaning I could only use it if I signed in to AOL online. In 1997, it got its own standalone app. In its infancy, it competed with other messengers from Yahoo and Microsoft MSN. While it may have prevailed in its early days, it could not contend with Facebook or WhatsApp. AOL’s biggest downfall was not making the shift to mobile devices. In its prime, AOL was valued at hundreds of billions of dollars. When it was sold to Verizon in 2015, it was only worth $4.4 billion. In March of this year, a former employee estimated only single-digit millions of people were still using the service. Thus, the cost was just too high to justify continued support of the chat platform. Users can still download images until December 15, but some download links have already been removed. Also, users can’t save or transfer their buddy list. #byebuddy
As a tribute to AIM, before its last day of operation, let’s share some notes of gratitude for the chat messaging service.
Thank you, AIM, for teaching us how to type quickly while looking at the computer screen and not our keyboard.
In eighth grade, I took a required class called Technology. What I realized after my first day in that class was that Technology was just another word for Typing. The purpose of the course was to teach us how to type quickly, without looking at the keyboard. We had makeshift covers over every keyboard and on the overhead projector (yes, remember those?) there were phrases we were to transcribe, as fast as possible, while keeping our eyes on the computer screen. We did this every single day. Although I passed the class, AIM did more for my typing skills than that semester-long “Technology” course. Having conversational-paced dialogue by typing takes some mad skills. Granted, we used short sentences and abbreviations galore, but I could tell after a few evenings on AIM, that my typing skills vastly improved. In fact, I credit AIM with my lightning fast typing skills today.
Thank you, AIM, for setting the foundation for Tweets and status updates.
TechCrunch.com credits the AIM away message with starting the modern tweet and status updates we all use now. I couldn’t agree more. Didn’t we all AGONIZE over what cool turn of phrase or thoughtful quote we would use for our away status? It was also a place where we could just be honest about ourselves. I definitely had an away message that said “brb. dad needs computer for work. so lame.” #honesttogoodness If you want a good laugh, head over to BuzzFeed.com and read “The 20 Most Iconic AIM Away Messages of All Time.” We all used them, don’t even lie. And, because we used them, when Facebook added status updates and when Twitter was released, we knew exactly what to do.
Thank you, AIM, for forcing us to create screen names when we were pre-teens that we can’t escape as adults.
My AIM screen name was also my first email account. The idea of a coming up with an alias for my online self seemed like the perfect opportunity to express my creativity. What did I want my screen name to say about me? What special characters would it include? If it needed numbers, what would those numbers symbolize? After thinking and toiling for hours, I ended up simply using my nickname from softball and the month and day of Lance Bass’ birthday (I am a huge *NSYNC fan). At the time, it seemed pretty basic, but looking back now, I sure am glad I never had a screen name like BigBaller73 or drpepper_luv_r. Sidenote: I still see people use these email addresses on their resumes! Get a boring, grown-up Gmail account, would ya? First Name_Last Name@gmail.com.
Thank you, AIM, for connecting us to people around the world via the internet.
While we mostly chatted with friends from school about the latest gossip or who liked who, the AIM chat rooms offered up a chance to talk to people from just about anywhere. This was UNHEARD of at the time. I compare it to picking up the phone, dialing a random number and having a conversation with whoever picked up the receiver. Aside from the creepy weirdos hanging around the AIM chat rooms occasionally, I did converse with kids from other cities and states. How did I know where they were from, you ask? By typing, A/S/L?, of course! For all you young people, that means: Age? Sex/Gender? and Location? Although simple, the AIM chat was a revelation to the people using it. Connecting the globe using the internet was happening. And it was pretty freaking cool to be a part of a global community.
AOL said it perfectly in a notification email to its users, “From setting the perfect away message to that familiar ring of an incoming chat, AIM will always have a special place in our hearts.” I know it will for me. Although we have plenty of chat options nowadays, I hope we all look back fondly on those good ol’ AIM days. And maybe someday, find a way to permanently delete those embarrassing screen names. #agirlcandream
Is there anything else you all would like to thank AIM for? Anyone willing to admit part of their AIM screen name? Drop it in a comment below! Don’t forget to subscribe to our email list to get insider info on upcoming posts, just like this one, delivered straight to your inbox.