Twitter Eulogizes AIM as App Sounds Death Knell

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AIM was first among giants in the messaging space.
AIM was first among giants in the messaging space. Credit: AOL

The end of AIM, announced Friday, has put the internet into nostalgia mode as people lose what was perhaps their first online hangout.

In an oddly off-tone, cheery message, AIM announced it was closing with a GIF of its running man logo waving goodbye in a party hat and letting off balloons. "Thanks for making chat history with us," the GIF says.

AIM, of course, is AOL Instant Messenger, owned by AOL, which is now owned by Oath, a merged AOL-Yahoo venture owned by Verizon. AIM did not make the corporate-mishmash cut, and will shut down in December.

AIM was every pre-teen's favorite online hangout for the better part of the late '90s through the mid-2000s. It emerged as a standalone property in the AOL family in 1997, available for download, and was a way for people to chat person to person anytime they hopped online, a precursor to BlackBerry Messenger, then Facebook Messenger and Snapchat. AIM, it seems, just wasn't cut out for the mobile world.

"Why didn't [Instant Messenger] become Facebook?" asked Jim Bankoff in his AdAge Ad Lib podcast. Bankoff, who's now chairman and CEO at Vox Media, was a longtime AOLer and helped found the messaging space there. He tells Ad Age he regrets that AIM never took its first-mover advantage to beat Facebook. In fact, he said, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted hacking the status message on AIM, giving birth to the idea for the social network.

"I had the opportunity very briefly to meet Mark Zuckerberg, and I think the first time I met him I was running AIM still," said Bankoff. "I was at AOL. And he was all, 'Oh my gosh, that's how I started everything! I was a hacker on AIM and I would hack the status messages, and that was really a big inspiration for Facebook.' I was like, 'Oh … thanks.'"

Now, AIM is being eulogized across Twitter as people recall everything from their first internet usernames and messages to first crushes.

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