For many years, AOL Instant Messenger was one of the last real reminders of how sweeping AOL’s presence was in the 1990s. As recently as last year, it wasn’t uncommon for me to find editors using it as a means of real-time communication with freelancers when Slack wasn’t an option.
Today, though, the team at Oath announced on Tumblr that AIM will be shutting down on December 15 after an impressive 20-year run. Oath is the new company Verizon created to merge elements of AOL and Yahoo following its acquisition of both.
“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” the announcement reads.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The signs were already there, as AOL starting denying access from some third-party chat clients way back in February. At the time, an AOL employee who spoke with Ars Technica claimed usage had slipped into the “single digit millions.”
“In the years since, the frail network of old backend code was likely never rewritten and as people retired from the company or were forced out they had to let functionality go,” he continued.
Long before that, in 2012 The New York Times reported that AOL axed more than 40 jobs at its West Coast offices, with the AIM team being the hardest hit. This essentially ended any significant new development or updates beyond mere survival.
AIM, though, for years remained a somewhat comforting reminder of the way things used to be. The Tumblr announcement plays on that nostalgia, saying that ’90s kids “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.”
End of an era.