Anyone who grew up in the early 2000s has fond memories of punk rock music, TRL, and chatting sites like MySpace and AIM as defining hallmarks of their generation. “You’ve got mail” was both an annoying vocal message and a warm indication that someone was waiting to chat. AIM predated today’s most dominant social media sites and defined a generation of online chatting. AIM’s death is sad news for some of its devoted users. Dec. 15 will officially mark the end of an era.
AOL’s Instant Messaging service, AIM, was a pioneer in the late 1990s, ushering in the era of internet-based communication. The site was one of the first popular social media platforms that managed to ignite a fire in the world of online communication.
AIM was quite possibly the first widely adopted instant messenger service, following an era in the 2000s when the “chat room” phenomenon had scared news reporters and parents alike. With its 1997 launch date, AIM even predated text messages. Before Twitter, people used their away messages on AIM to let friends know what they were doing at that moment. Before MySpace, there was the AIM bio. Before Facebook, there was the ability to upload a profile picture.
What Caused the Death of AIM?
AIM’s death is sad news, but it isn’t a surprise to anyone. Where has the site been in the last 10 years? How have they reinvented themselves out of the 2000s? Searching for reasons why the site had failed to survive when it was once the most popular option available opens the door to a much larger conversation about why social media sites cannot successfully monetize after years of dominance.
AIM has not been able to reinvent itself and sustain its user base in the ever-changing landscape of popular culture. Sites need to have an app that works to cater to youth. To reinvent the app as the youth generation changes and reinvents themselves is to have an app that lasts for years. While other platforms used innovative techniques to adapt, (Myspace, a significant competitor in the early 2000s, allowed users to post biographies and a theme song to make each user feel special and unique) AIM did not.
In fact, though the site will officially be 20 years old by December 15, AIM died years ago when people simply stopped using it. When live video streaming, seven-second videos and picture edits became necessities for social media sites, AIM failed to follow the trend — or more importantly — to lead the pack.
With the sad but unsurprising news of AIM’s closing, the site joins Myspace, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger as relics of the early internet era that did not last because they failed to reinvent themselves. At 20 years old, AIM leaves behind a legacy of impact, but not one of revitalization. Now is a good time to contribute to the obituary on Tumblr called AIMemories, or to spend some time crafting that perfect final away message.
Have something to add to this story? Comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.
Header image: aimemories.tumblr.com