Friday December 15th, 2017 marks a sad day for fans of AOL’s Instant Messenger: the service has been discontinued.

Users who visit are redirected to a support with details on its demise.

The news marks the end of an era for anyone who came of age with the internet in the late 90s and early 2000s.

When AIM launched in 1997, using the World Wide Web required a desktop computer with a clunky dial-up connection that tied up the phone lines. Perhaps more than any other product, AIM helped establish the internet as a place to hang out rather than being a simple utility.

AIM offered a platform for people to express themselves with embarrassing screen names, profiles filled with colorful fonts and emotional lyrics, and as many messages as you could send before someone in your house kicked you offline.

The product earned a coveted spot in pop culture, making cameos in You’ve Got Mail and Sex and the City.

But the service that defined the internet for a generation of users failed to evolve with them.

A decade after AIM launched, Apple kicked off the smartphone era with the release of the original iPhone. Un-tethered from their computers, internet users shifted to a range of messaging apps and social networks like Facebook  and Twitter.

AIM, with a brand recognized by millions, could have capitalized on this shift and emerged as a lead player in the billion-dollar messaging space. Instead, it faded further and further from relevance.

Oath, the company created earlier this year from Verizon’s merging of AOL and Yahoo, acknowledged this unfortunate fact in its announcement Friday of AIM’s shutdown.

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” Michael Albers, VP of communications product at Oath, wrote in a blog post.

Case in point: The announcement of AIM’s shutdown was made on Twitter and Tumblr, two of the newer communications platforms that helped displace it.

Oath, the new entity formed under Verizon combining AOL with the recently-acquired Yahoo, revealed in October it would end AIM, as a host of new platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have surfaced.

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” said Michael Albers, vice president of communications product at Oath.

AIM was a staple of personal computers since first launching in 1997. However, AIM couldn’t make the seamless transition to mobile, where most users rely on instant messaging services.

Of course, that did not stop users on Twitter from mourning the loss of their first real messaging app.

Posted in Business, Events, History, IT, Obituary.

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