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AOL: A Legacy of Instant Messaging

Instant messaging has become integrated into our daily existence, so much so that young Americans send over two thousand texts a month just from their favorite messengers. Yet when you think about the history of instant messaging, we forget that it was America Online that pioneered the concept since the early 2000’s. Times have changed; companies like Facebook rose to power and implemented their own messenger programs, and instant messaging has moved straight to our smartphones. It’s times like this that we remember where it all began: with AOL instant messenger or AIM. 

If you have not heard the news by now, AOL’s AIM app will be shutting down on December 15th, 2017 after twenty years of service. As one of the first platforms to pioneer online messaging, it left a major impact on many of its users. After AOL was bought by Verizon in 2015, and later merged with Yahoo to form Oath, big changes came for AOL. However, these changes weren’t enough to keep AIM on top of the IM market forever.

AIM was the forerunner of instant messaging technology and since its creation, more competition arose and eventually enticed users with more convenient and popular options overall. While AOL continues to survive as a child company to Verizon, AIM represents a relic of the technological past that, though it offered something completely revolutionary for the time, has become obsolete. 

Instant messaging was once the fastest form of communication without the need for a phone or email, not just for young teens from the ninety’s, but for anyone. To this day, the use of instant messaging cuts the time between communicating with friends, family, bosses, and co-workers without any lag time. It even introduced new forms of customer service thanks to the introduction of help desk chat rooms that companies like Comcast or Verizon would use to help their customers solve technical issues from the comfort of their computer. 

The younger generation that never had the chance to use AIM don’t know how important instant messaging was beyond just sending text messages. For starters, it introduced the concept of chat robots, automated bots that monitor and read answers from what users write in the chat rooms. Today, chatbots are great for acting as automated information gatherers that are good at answering customer questions that major companies may not have the time to answer. 

In any case, if you have an email with AOL, there is nothing to worry about. AOL’s instant messenger may be going but your email will be unaffected and will work as normal. For all instant messaging veterans and nostalgic users, this is a time to remember the good that was AOL Instant messenger.