Ah, a typical conversation between 7th and 8th graders using AIM. How intellectual. If 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.
2005: Google Talk
2008: Facebook Chat
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.
But 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.
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.