Internet kids, pour one out. AOL Instant Messenger, one of the oldest messaging services around, is shutting down this year after 20 years of service. Oath announced the shutdown today, and the service will finally go dark on December 15.
Way back before social media, there was instant messaging. Chat services had once been tied to the ISPs themselves, but people wanted to communicate with each other without having to connect to AOL or Compuserve specifically. Services like ICQ, MSN, and AIM each offered chat networks with varying features, and all had their audiences. While I spent time on each of those, AOL Instant Messenger was my go-to service for at least a decade.
When Facebook and Gmail hit in the early 2000s, though, communication patterns began to shift—an event that the company acknowledges. "AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed," wrote Michael Albers, VP of Communications Product at Oath, the Verizon subsidiary that owns the service.
Nowadays, services like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and even Twitter are the dominant methods of short-form communication. Gone are the days of epic Away Messages with reader-specific variables. Gone are the days of custom, eye-searing fonts. The old guard of instant messaging has been dying off for some time now. MSN Messenger shut down in 2014, and the original Yahoo! Messenger's plug was pulled a year later. ICQ, apparently, is still around. And I still remember my ICQ number.
If you've been online long enough to have used AOL Instant Messenger, take a moment to remember all the connections you made, all the spam messages you received, and all the dope away messages you set up over the years.