Say goodbye to AOL

FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2010, file photo, an AOL logo is seen in the company's office in Hamburg, Germany. AOL announced on Oct. 6, 2017, that it will discontinue its once-popular Instant Messenger platform on Dec. 15(AP Photo/Axel Heimken, File)

The day when AIM delivered itself to the world had been twenty years ago, in the late 90s. It brought us the first instant messaging service throughout the late 90s to the early and mid 2000’s. For those too young to understand what many have used this historic program for, just watch the movie “You Got Mail,” and you’ll see the parallels of AIM to texting your crush on your smartphone’s basic text messaging, Facebook messenger, What’sApp and even Tinder. AIM had been the evolution of messaging; clearing the pedestal away from the old-fashioned sending of letters that took days in advance, and the long distance, tiresome telephone calls.

Now this year, on October 6, 2017, AIM’s (Previously titled as AOL (America Online) instant messenger) owners at Oath Incorporated announced that the system will be discontinued on December 15 of this year. Between today and that date, everyone who has an account (anyone who still does) is taking the time to sign-in to their past to see through the cobwebs of disuse their messages that they never bothered to delete from their inboxes, and feeling great pangs of nostalgia in the process.

When AIM first appeared in the late 90s, it became a massive phenomenon, being used as almost the number one source of communication. Whether between co-workers, college classmates, parents, or friends, AIM was the American culture. But as the 2000’s rolled away, when competitors began their own evolutionary products and programs and AIM staggered behind trying to catch up and keep its herd of users. It fought consistently with Yahoo’s messaging service and Microsoft’s MSN, but the real tragedy was when messaging turned mobile, and AIM hasn’t seen the light of opportunity since. Its market value today had gone from $224 billion down to $4.4 billion.

Attention, however, seems to have spiked up for AOL since the announcement of its discontinuation. Twitter feeds expressing their appreciation for the program, and their own luck for having been involved in the history of instant messaging filled the news feeds. If you want to feel the same nostalgic sadness as them, and gloat how you aren’t a millennial, feel free to activate your old account. But do it before December 15, otherwise, you’ll never be able to sign on ever again.

“We know there are so many loyal fans who have used AIM for decades; and we loved working and building the first chat app of its kind since 1997,” says AOL on the AIM help page.

Without AIM, perhaps Facebook’s messaging and other programs of instant messaging would have been produced at a different stage in time, or even never have been created the same way they are today. In an article by Rani Molla on the closing of AOL, she writes that like many Americans of the time during AOL’s domination of internet web messaging, Zuckerberg was a heavy user of AIM’s service. Since most of his friends were leagues away from him, the long distance required AIM for sustained connections with them. During that time, he started to developed nuances for how people expressed their emotions and ideas online, and grew irritated of the many restrictions AIM had for its users, such as not being able to hide your online status to friends and other contacts.

So it may be good enough to say that AIM inspired the most popular and successful social media entrepreneur of our time, revolutionizing how we communicate with each other. Although they didn’t make a dime off it, AIM technically created the “emojis” and the “likes”, as our new way of culture, through irritating Zuckerberg with its honest user online status.

Anyway, goodbye AOL. Let it be known that AIM will become just a memory of history our children’s children will learn about through mediums such as literature, online catalogues, documentaries and of course, from the movie, “You Got Mail.”


Joseph Frare is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joseph.frare@uconn.edu