In the side-by-side march of time and technology, it is only a matter of time before the old gives way to the new. Back in the mid-1990s when the internet seemed so up and up for everybody, America Online started an instant messaging system, AOL IM or just simply AIM. It can be argued that the AIM service was a pioneer of internet-powered messaging and was one of the most likely gateway “chat” programs for a generation of first-time internet users. But all good things come to an end, and that end reached AIM long ago when its user-base declined significantly.

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Ultimately its current owner Oath Inc. has announced that it will put the old messaging system to pasture, effective December.

Inevitable obsolescence

Oath Inc., a subsidiary of Verizon that is the umbrella company containing the internet services of Yahoo! and the remains of America Online, posted an official announcement last week declaring the discontinuation of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) on December 15.

The chat app had been in operation since 1997 and was the leading online chat platform in its heyday. By the turn of the 21st Century, AIM found itself superseded by SMS text messaging on mobile phones, and again by the advent of social media like Facebook, which have their own messaging applications.

Oath VP for communications products Michael Albers remarked on how AIM’s early period created a “cultural shift” with the way it tapped into digital technologies. But he added, “The way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed.” In anticipation of the chat service’s shutdown, all access to it from third-party chat clients were cut off last March. While some users still get some use out of AIM even now, the online community is now more familiar with services like Instagram or Snapchat, which have found a home on mobile gadgets while the aging platform remained on desktop computers.

Decline of a pioneer

AOL Instant Messenger was a product of an archaic age, back where users logged on using a registered user-name (but with a zero-privacy profile). For AIM users to be able to chat with one another they need to exchanged user-names to establish a chat. One quirk of the whole user experience had been the need for a user to announce he was away, and the option to type up any “away status” message one would like can be considered the forerunner of modern-day Tweeting.

With the decline of AOL, the AIM chat service was absorbed by Verizon, until it was combined with their Yahoo! acquisition into Oath Inc. Ongoing development of the desktop application ended in 2012, with AIM operating unchanged and un-updated until now, and its closure this December.