AOL Instant Messenger—one of the most influential and important instant messaging chat clients of all time—will shut down for good on December 15, AOL announced Friday. AIM was 20 years old. Goodbye.
AIM is survived by its slightly older sibling, ICQ and a host of chat apps that have come after, including iMessage, WhatsApp, and Hangouts.
AOL said on its website that people still on the platform cannot save or export their buddy lists, and that "data associated with AIM will be deleted after December 15." Profiles associated with screen names were deleted long ago after an update that got rid of the popular system, AOL told me earlier this year.
This is sad news not only for the dedicated lifers who are still using AIM, but for anyone who came of age in the late 90s and early 2000s and spent countless hours of their lives flirting with crushes, cultivating their buddy profiles, and curating a font-and-background persona for themselves.
There are many far better chat apps these days (and have been for a long time), but many of them have lost the playfulness that comes with, say, selecting a screenname, writing a profile, or selecting an away message.
"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," AOL wrote on its frequently asked questions page about the shutdown. "Our focus will always be on providing the kind of innovative experiences consumers want. We're more excited than ever to focus on building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products."
AOL did not immediately respond to my request for comment.
Earlier this year, after half a decade away from the platform, I signed back onto AIM and used it for a few weeks. None of my old friends were on there, so I had to cajole them to return (old screen names intact), but the app itself is pretty similar to how it was in the old days; its mobile app works but is buggy from time to time. It felt nostalgic, but anyone paying attention to AIM could have guessed that AOL—now owned by Verizon—would eventually shut it down. Support was dwindling, and, well, I'd be shocked if it remained a profitable exercise.
There are, indeed, a few people left who still use AIM (AOL wouldn't tell me how many active users it had.) After I wrote an article about the service earlier this year, I was invited to a group chat called "AIM for Lyfe" with about 80 people on it. Mostly, this group shared memes. So, like any other internet community.
So far, no concerted effort has been made by any third party archivists to save AIM data, but I wouldn't be surprised if a movement crops up in the next few days. It's a shame AIM g2g … and this time, there's no ttyl. RIP.