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The last day of AIM

AOL Instant Messenger 5.9

So I guess we're now calling it America Offline?

Yeah, that would be appropriate.

Everyone is talking about this today, so I figured I'd throw my 2 cents in.

America Online Instant Messenger a.k.a. AOL Instant Messenger a.k.a. AIM, as of this writing today, December 15, 2017, is officially offline.

While there have been a few huge goodbyes to Web 1.0, the biggest two have been the shuttering of Geocities (a free web page service) and now AIM.

I don't remember exactly when I started using AIM, but it was either in the late '90s or very early 2000s. And I can honestly say that out of every single IM (instant messaging) I ever used, AIM was the most reliable. Every other IM service would routinely have problems. YIM (Yahoo! Instant Messenger) and MSN (Microsoft Network) would just randomly stop working, but I can't ever recall AIM ever having a major outage.

What was AIM?

AIM was part of what I call the tethered internet experience. As in the time where you had to sit down at a desktop computer, instruct your software to dial out to acquire an internet connection over a phone line, and then you could go ahead and do your online stuff. Mobile internet didn't exist, and that's why I call it a tethered experience.

AIM was popular not only because everyone knew what America Online was, but also for a few other reasons. The AIM client was the smallest, fastest, and as said above the most reliable.

What made IM die?

It never did. It just changed platforms.

Mobile text messaging, otherwise known as SMS, is IM. Facebook Messenger is IM. Twitter when it first launched was labeled as a "slow instant messenger," because it too is a version of IM.

Any service you know of on the internet where chat style messaging exists is IM. This even includes gaming. If the video game has online multiplayer capability, most offer the ability for user-to-user chat, and that's IM.

Why is there such an affection for AIM?

The affection exists because AIM at one point was the #1 messenger on the internet, and seemingly everyone had it. When something gets that big, people feel an attachment and have a sense of loss when it's gone.

AIM also had a mascot, the little "running man" yellow guy. Other messengers had their logos too, but the running man was easily the most recognizable and most memorable. Think of it this way: Nobody remembers the actual America Online logo, but everyone remembers the running man.

Are there any old school ways to chat left?

IRC (internet relay chat) is the oldest of the old where internet chat is concerned. It's still used today and it predates IM.

The funny thing about IRC is that there are a ton of people who don't even know it exists, and I know exactly why. It's because corporations have zero interest in it. IRC, traditionally, is nothing but raw, plain text that cannot be monetized because there's no way to do it. Given that there's no money in IRC whatsoever, corporations don't even bother trying to get their meat hooks in there, and that's why so many people have never heard of IRC. And that's fine as far as IRC users are concerned.

Do I still use IM?

I use Facebook Messenger and in rare instances Skype. Other than that, my preferred text communication is still plain email. 🙂


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