u there? kk c u l8r!

s8rboi95: wu?

dancergrl5678: nmu?

s8rboi95: jc.

Ah, a typical conversation between 7th and 8th graders using AIM. How intellectual. tumblr_inline_oxenj0EQe41v9fx0s_500If you can’t follow along, Pure Talk USA has you covered with their cheat sheet of the
texting lingo. All of this was really emphasized with the popular Cingular commercial that many know as “idk my bff Jill”. But sadly, this era is coming to an end as AIM is officially ending on December 15th after two decades.

Hold up, let’s take a step back. AIM is AOL’s signature instant messaging service. It was released in May 1997 for Microsoft Windows, and was popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, capturing approximately 52% of the United States as users. However, this wasn’t the first instant messaging platform.

1961: Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computation Center created a system called “Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) that allowed up to 30 individuals to log in at the same time and send messages to each other like email.

1980: BBS (Bulletin Board System) – System that allowed users to upload and download software and exchange direct messages.

1982: AOL is released as “Commodore 64 PC”. Charges users a monthly fee to send messages via modem. Receiver has option to respond or ignore.

1997: AIM

1998: Yahoo!Messenger

2000: Jabber

2002: iChat

2003: Skype

2005: Google Talk

2006: MySpaceIM

2008: Facebook Chat

2009: GroupMe

2011: iMessage & Facebook Messenger


Email was too formal. Instant messaging was taking over. As a WSJ eloquently put it, formality fell away. “Are you there?” suddenly became “u there”. One of my friends named Kyle Burnett who liked to surf became kbsurfer56, and although AIM might die, the screen names never will.

The best part about these services was that it allowed users to connect with others throughout the entire world without it costing an arm and a leg, but it also became a commonality to chat with your friend who was sitting three feet away from you. Facebook and WhatsApp reached more than 20 countries in 2015 and has many more to go.

anigif_original-19987-1403633887-22But what made it become so prevalent? The added feature of informing when someone was replying made AIM addictive. You would sit there in suspense, staring intensely at the computer screen, trying as hard as possible not to blink until a new message popped up. It became a daily waiting game. Sound familiar? That’s because Apple’s iPhone does the same thing with the three, ominous dots when someone is typing.

AIM was the original facilitator of planning, flirting, homework sharing, and so much more. It was what middle schoolers looked forward to ALL DAY after they finished their homework. It was the “social language whose cornerstone is the rectangle in your pocket.” Without AIM, other instant messaging such as Facebook messenger, WeChat, GroupMe, and even texting may not have existed. The chat-app industry is now worth multiple billions of dollars and it owes it all to AIM.

According to eMarketer, in 2015, more than 1.4 billion consumers meaning 75% of smartphone users used a messaging app at least once a month in 2015 used the phone messaging app industry. CNBC posted an article in 2014 claiming that the messaging app industry would generate almost $25 billion by 2017 along with 2.9 billion users. Staying alive in the industry is difficult due to the competition between the services, but only one service can take responsibility for the booming market and that is AIM.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 2.33.54 PM

So how does everyone feel about their teenage years going away? I interviewed some family and friends to find out:

Question: How do you feel about AIM ending after 20 years?

Courtney, 33: Lol. I feel fine…I haven’t used it in 10 years. Really don’t need it with text.

Chris, 33: I’m devastated. I used to spend hours on it every day. We used to give out AIM screen names instead of phone numbers.

Andrew, 21: Didn’t know people still used it. Not that sentimental about it.

Sean, 18: Not really surprised since there are many more services now that have much more features in their chat services and overall make communication a lot easier than AIM ever did.

Caitlin: 21: That’s a heartbreaker!!! It was literally the first advanced form of communication we used as kids.

As Thomas Husson, an analyst who follows emerging technology mentioned, in the recent WSJ article about AIM, “It’s the end of an era for the first generation of internet users.” The simplicity of the platform was what attracted its large user base initially. Similarly, Apple’s simplicity of its products is what has made it boom. Believe it or not, AIM is still being used in the business world, sparking some controversy among the news on Friday. Physical traders still use AIM to “conduct daily business such as transacting gas trades and scheduling deliveries. Where will they go next? Intercontinental Exchange is attempting to sway users to its ICE IM chat claiming that users can keep their existing handles. Will it work?

What do you think of AIM ending? Let me know in the comments section below. gts, gts. gtg. brb! Ttyl, ISYS6621.


  1. chloeshepard18 · ·

    I think it’s very sad that AIM is ending. I don’t use it anymore so it really doesn’t impact me at all but it was a huge part of my childhood. I never really thought about the fact that AIM started instant messaging and how much we owe AIM. Facebook Messenger and texting could be completely different if it wasn’t for AOL.

  2. taylorvanhare · ·

    Ah this is sad – I loved AIM back in the day (RIP liltaytay375). But like Andrew I am not too torn up about it because I think they last time I used it was 6th grade. I am very intrigued with the messaging industry though, it has always surprised me because I feel like every new application these days has some sort of additional “chat” feature in addition to the apps core functionality. It will be interesting to see how apps try and distinguish one chat platform from the next, as all chat systems at their core are the same – essentially a faster and more convenient way to communicate with your friends.

  3. I would have to agree that I am sad to see it go–my friends from home still refer to me by my username “evrydaysaHOLLYday.” It was such a prominent part of my middle school years. But, I think the saying “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” applies nicely here. It is an end of an era, but as you showed in your post, it was the catalyst for so many new communication platforms that we use today.

  4. Hilary_Gould · ·

    I am SO sad about AIM shutting down. How are middle schoolers expected to communicate??? I guess that now that kids get phones–especially smart phones– younger and younger they can simply iMessage. When I used AIM it was before all my friends had cell phones– not to mention texting on their cell phone– and we all used our family computers to message our friends. Similar to Holly, I saw one of my best friends from elementary school this weekend and we talked about how she will always be “maddiesamermaid” and I will always be “sillhill77” even if AIM doesn’t exist anymore.

  5. kaitlinardiff · ·

    I agree with everyone above when I say that while it’s so sad to see AIM go away since it was such a big part of our childhoods, I think we all outgrew it a long time ago. The reason for this is that now we live in much more of a visual age. I’d say that the most popular social media platforms in the US today are Snapchat and Instagram, and evidently these are both based on the visual aspect of sharing pictures, videos, etc. Since AIM was just a text-based platform and failed to innovate on its offerings, it fell behind as we became more enamored with new technologies and trends.

  6. camcurrie99 · ·

    RIP camerontaft17356. The emotional attachment to AIM will never fade for those of us who grew up on it. My parents got me my first computer when I was in the third grade and my older brother set me up on AIM (which we always pronounced A – I – M, not “aim” as others have tried to convince me is correct) shortly after that. With current networks of communications, in particular mobile communications, so intertwined in our lives now, there is no need for AOL/Oath/Verizon to continue paying for AIM servers to run and staff to provide support for the service. AIM will forever be a part of the early internet communications history and I am proud to have been such an avid user of the service!

  7. Crazy to think how fast innovation moves – 15 years ago, this was the height of technology and now it’s being phased out because NO ONE uses it. I haven’t used AIM since maybe freshman year of college… but I was using my AIM screenname on iChat, the predecessor to iMessage. I wonder what iMessage’s successor will look like 15 years from now.

  8. I had no idea this chat existed, however I feel it almost like you. I used MSN Messenger and now nobody uses it and probably no one knew it existed. Its amazing how things can be so popular from one day to another and then in a second disappear. Now Facebook and Whats app (also FB) has all market Share and probably will continue to do so in many years. Great post! Learned something new!

  9. Nice post. I’m surprised at how many older tech savvy people I know are really upset about it being cancelled. Frankly, I didn’t even know it still existed.

  10. sejackson33 · ·

    I didn’t know AIM still existed either, but this is very sad. RIP xojacksonoxx. I will never forget wasting away hours on AIM sharing videos and pictures, gossiping (using code names, of course), flirting, and doing “homework.” I think AIM is what set our generation on the path to be as hyper connected as we are today. We grew up constantly chatting with each other on our parents’ computer like we now can on iMessage in the palm of our hands.

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