doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Whatever happened to …

… AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)?

Confession time here.  I thought that it was gone.

Until I read this article this past week “AOL Instant Messenger is Going Away. What Are Your Alternatives?“, I thought that it was really long gone.

At least it was from my memory!

Before the 21st Century came along, it was how you could immediately communicated from desktop computer to desktop computer.

Who remembers the “Running Man”?  It would just as easily been called a “Running Person”.


Thanks, Hasan Diwan CC BY-ND 2.0

AOL was pretty aggressive in the marketing of their services.  It seemed that every time you purchased a piece of software, it came with an AOL diskette and a trial of their service.

I do remember being at a friend’s desktop during a Messenger session where he was chatting back and forth with a friend.  I remember thinking, at the time, that this was really dumb.  Why don’t they just pick up the phone and talk to each other?  This concept will never catch on.  Boy, was I wrong!

Here’s an interesting tribute – AIMless – 500ish Words.

AIM wasn’t the only messenger application that came along.  MSN Messenger was a competitor in that same field.  Now, there’s a product that has indeed gone away.

But look at what remains.  Communication has changed so much.  It takes a very patient person who sends an email and then sits and waits for a response.  Now, we fire up whatever service we’re using (Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Texting Application, …) and fire off a message.  No longer does our conversations have to be limited to sitting at a computer; the conversation can be continued with what ever device is handy – phone, tablet, computer, …

And, AIM is going to be a memory starting in mid-December.

So, your thoughts?

  • Did you every use AIM as a messenger?
  • Did you use any of the competing products like MSN Messenger?
  • Today, there are so many ways to instantly send a message from one person to another.  Do you see a day when one of them will triumph over all the others?  Which one?
  • What did you do with those AOL diskettes that you used to get?  Did you discard them or did you reformat them and place your own labels on them for you own use?
  • Do you use AOL’s current services?

I hope that this takes you back like it did with me.

Please take a moment and share your thoughts by sending a reply below this post.

The complete collection of posts in this series is available here.

Got an idea for a future post?  Add it to this padlet.


2 responses to “Whatever happened to …”

  1. Good morning Doug!

    The Internet happened to AOL. I think this happened in two steps.

    1) Local Internet service providers appeared so that you didn’t need to call a 1-800 number to connect to the web.
    2) The telephone companies and cable companies realized that people needed to use their services to connect to the local Internet service providers, and so they got into the act, replacing dial up with always-on connections. I’m thinking that most people now get their Internet services directly from the company that runs a wire into the house, unless they are using a fixed wireless connection like, say, Xplornet.

    Recall that when online services first started, they had their own connection client/interface (hence all of those floppy discs — and subsequent CD data discs). The World Wide Web wasn’t a thing yet, and Mosaic/Mozilla/Netscape were still in development. As we’ve discussed previously, CompuServe was my connection of choice. Sadly, Apple’s eWorld never really took off. I guess I can take solace in the fact that my early Internet connections to CompuServe helped to pay the way for the development and consolidation of the GIF format that gives me such a fun creative outlet these days.

    Although I may have used an AOL CD as a coaster once or twice, the best application was to use them for classroom builds of balloon powered cars. With the large diameter, perfectly round profile and a hole in the exact middle, they made for great wheels!

    In rereading your post, I realize you’re really focussing on the AOL Instant messenger application. I never used it as such. There would’ve been once or twice when I used another service that connected through AIM in the background, But for the most part, it’s been email all the way until Twitter came along. Twitter is the first and only messaging platform that I’ve been comfortable launching a second application for to run alongside my email client. I’d be happy to see Twitter client functionality folded into an email application. The two streams, each with their own ability to support threads could peacefully flow along in the same river of time. A simple toggle could let you turn one or the other on or off if need be. As it stands right now, the world is fractured into multiple platforms, and I honestly don’t have the time to keep track of all of them, hence my limited use of Facebook. Although hangouts, Skype, and other video messaging services have value when everybody can be synchronous, the serendipitous nature of day today communication is well supported with asynchronous platforms like email and Twitter.

    So, 25 odd years after the fact, I sing, “so long AIM, I hardly knew ye.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Like Andy, I never really used the instant messaging component of AOL. I did use the mail part though, and I still have an AOL email account. I still have the AOL CD as well. I can’t actually put it into any computer, but I’ve just not had it in me to let it go.

    Thanks for these weekly trips down memory lane. I’m curious to hear what others have to say about AIM.


    Liked by 1 person

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