Happy Trails, AIM

TechCrunch – The pioneering chat app that taught us to text is pulling the plug. On December 15th, AOL Instant Messenger will shut down after running since 1997. AIM dominated online chat in North America at the turn of the century. But with SMS and social apps like Facebook and WhatsApp having conquered chat, AOL is giving up the fight with no planned replacement.

Giving up the fight? What fight? I haven’t used AIM in six years, but it was pretty much the same in 2011 as it was in 2001. People complain about Facebook changing its look and features too often, but those changes keep it relevant. Facebook will be twenty years old in seven years, but it’s hard to imagine Facebook dying a death in obscurity like AIM.

Now that pretty much every app on your phone has the ability to send and receive messages from your pocket, AIM really did become superfluous years ago. It’s even a bit surprising this end didn’t come sooner. But broadband internet may of played a bigger role in killing AIM than smart phones. It used to be exciting when your best friend or crush signed on. After broadband internet became common place, no one ever signed off.

And while it is a shame that AOL never figured out a way to freshen up AIM, or keep it a little bit more relevant for a little while longer, it was a trail blazer. Away Messages really were the predecessor to status updates and tweets. Your profile is where you put obscure music lyrics and threw shade at frenemies in the days before MySpace.

But maybe going away is the best thing that could happen for AIM right now. How could we have ever missed Crystal Pepsi or Surge if they never went away? I’ll bet you an Andrew Jackson that AIM is relaunched as an app within the next five years. At that point, younger millennials will remember AIM the way I (an older millennial) remember SEGA Genesis. Now excuse me while I go crush the competition as Stockton and Malone in NBA JAM TE.

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