Last Updated on March 27, 2021
Ah, the good ol’ days of AOL Instant Messenger. Still feels just like yesterday I’d come home from middle school, immediately boot up my HP laptop, and log into AIM to continue conversations from where they had left off at the end of the school day. AIM was everything. I didn’t have a cell phone yet and even once I finally got one, I was limited to something like 8 texts per day (if even.) Instant messaging changed how I communicated with the people I was closest with. The best records of who I was in middle school were solely contained within my AIM chat logs.
AOL (or Oath, as it seems to be called now) sent out a sad e-mail announcing that they will be permanently shutting down AOL Instant Messenger on December 15, 2017. In all seriousness, I don’t think this should come as much of a surprise to anyone. When was the last time you even logged into AIM? For me, MAYBE 2010? Probably more like 2008, honestly.
Everything changed once Facebook took over. AIM became somewhat of a ghost town in the decade that followed. (Wow, I can’t believe how long it has been.) If we’re being brutally honest here, this decision is probably long overdue.
In today’s world of Instagram shots and Snapchat stories, I think we forget just how cool it felt at one time to be logged in on AIM. Everyone had AIM – it was the best way to virtually interact with people. Why bother using that slow T9 keyboard to text when you had access to the best free instant messaging application available online? AIM effectively became what felt like the only messaging application that mattered. AIM was everything.
I had my daily routine and I loved it. Spending my nights chatting with friends on AIM was actually how I discovered the lifestyle of procrastination and for that, I will be forever grateful to AOL.
Long before the days of group texts, friends would create chats together on AIM. That was how we made plans. Friendships started, ended, and oftentimes took place mostly inside the chatbox. I still remember the excitement of seeing a familiar username pop up right when they would sign-on.
The conventions of AOL instant messenger were so unique and special. We fully understood that away messages meant your friend was online but away from their computer. Sometimes we’d use those passive messages to let people around us know we were sad, hurt, or otherwise crying out for some odd reason. For the techier few, you might even recall SmarterChild, the bizarre artificial intelligence chatbox that would help you debate the fate of our universe as we know it. I spent way too many hours trying to test, trick, and figure that thing out. With no luck. SmarterChild always had an answer. Always.
Perhaps above all else, AIM served as a significant precursor to the social internet of today. Custom buddy icons helped us welcome the idea of profile pictures. Our online status made us familiar with the idea of status updates. Most importantly, AIM taught us a particular type of “internet-speak” that never seemed to go away. I don’t know about you but I was almost always brb’ing and lollllllling all night long.
AOL Instant Messenger outlived its usefulness by a decade so this is definitely a sound decision for the end of 2017. However, that does not make it any less upsetting for someone whose life revolved around AIM for several years. All of this talk is making me want to dig through my old files and see if I have any of my chats saved.
Farewell, AIM. Rest in Peace.