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It’s The End Of An Era As AIM Prepares To Post Its Final Away Message

Culture

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AOL Instant Messenger is shutting down after 20 years. :(

AOL Instant Messenger, a pioneer messaging platform that paved the way for Skype, G-Chat, WhatsApp, Slack and all of the other platforms that followed, has announced that it will be shutting down on Dec. 15. The news was announced in a blog post.

AIM was launched as a spin-off to AOL chat in May of 1997. The product evolved one of the most promising features of the AOL platform into its own chat client that was used by 63 million people at its peak in 2007. In 2011, AIM usage began to decline, dipping to 12 million users, in parallel with the rise of social media platforms.

Some of the platform’s most beloved features include Buddy Lists and Away Messages. With these, users could organize their friends based on custom categories and post automated messages to let friends know they weren’t at their computer to respond. Away Messages morphed into a mode of self-expression, taking on a variety of forms from the simple “bbl” (be back later), to quotes and song lyrics. If you were feeling particularly savage, maybe you used these as an opportunity to put some teenage angst out into the ether (AKA the modern-day subtweet).

Of course, there was also the user profile feature, where you could share your hobbies and interests, shout out your best friends with a “LYLAS” (love ya like a sis) or link to a personal website (perhaps a LiveJournal). Yet another AIM favorite, released with version 3.0, was the infamous buddy icon, the OG GIF, if you will, which were used as personalized chat avatars.

AIM also helped usher in the earliest versions of chatbots. Users from the late 90s and early 00s will fondly recall bots like “SmarterChild,” which—in hindsight—were quite ahead of their time given the rise of automated chat apps today.

The news won’t come as a surprise to most people, but millennials, in particular, will feel a twinge of pain as they bid adieu to a big piece of their childhood. For many 20-to-30 somethings, AIM is where we stalked our first crushes, expressed ourselves via stylized song lyrics and had secret late night chats with our best friends. My favorite AIM memory? Finding the Program Files folder where my brothers’ private chats were stored (#NancyDrew).

What will you miss most? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter by using the hashtag #AIMmemories.

Cover image via Mashable.

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