AOL’s Instant Messaging service, AIM, aka how you talked to cute boys in middle school, is dead after 20 years of creative and dumb and great screen names. AOL announced back in October that the messenger would be ceasing existence, and that day — today, December 15 — has come.
“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, communications products VP at Oath (AOL’s parent company.)
The legacy of AIM won’t soon be forgotten. After all, would there be a Slack if there hadn’t been an AIM predecessor? The simultaneously utilitarian and free-form format of Slack, in my humble opinion, has AIM written all over it. A way to kill time in between work assignments (or instead of work assignments), AIM is also the originator of the never-ending conversation. As my friend Luke was remembering, back in the day, you only stopped chatting if you had to go eat dinner or something. Nowadays, with our phones on us 24/7, the conversation truly never ends.
Luke also wrote a perfect eulogy for AIM. “As a 26-year old, I’m crucially aware that my appreciation for the prodigal instant messenger is colored by a nostalgia that has nothing to do with the service itself,” he wrote for PCGamer. “It was simply the medium of choice to grouse about homework, The Decemberists, girls I liked, and the rest of my random bullshit.”
I don’t have, if I’m being honest, a ton of nostalgia surrounding AIM. While I definitely remember using it to talk to cute boys who I didn’t usually talk to in real life, I don’t remember using it very regularly. I do remember, however, the heart-beating intensity of all of a sudden noticing that the boy I was obsessed with was online (AIM: LetABrotherSurf). That heart-beating-quicker intensity of seeing a name go from dark to illuminated on your screen and then debating all the possible scenarios in which you message that said person? Now that, folks, is an internet legacy.