I’m sure you’ve all heard the news by now that AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is going away forever in December 2017. Okay, maybe you didn’t even know the chat service was still around, but it is, and it’s about to be retired permanently.
Let’s take a look at 7 facts about the AIM, which ruled the online chat game before we all had mini computers in our hands.
1. It started as an off-the-books project
You used to have to pay for AOL, but in 1996, some employees there started kicking around the idea for a FREE, standalone messaging service. This small group worked on the project unofficially, on servers that someone had supposedly “lost,” without pitching it AOL’s executives. AIM was an instant success when made available to the public and had 40 million users by 1999.
2. Some of AIM’s most iconic features were launched without company approval
The engineers who created AIM often updated the service without approval from the higher-ups. One of the decisions they made with official approval was the buddy icon.
3. AIM changed the way people communicated online.
This one is no surprise. AIM changed how people talk to each other, and we’re seeing that today more than ever. Smiley faces, LOLs, etc. all changed the lexicon. In 2003, the New York Times wrote, “In fact, instant messaging has become an unofficial dialect, and devising misspelled versions of words lacking as many vowels as possible has become a literary form.”
4. Its purpose was to allow people to chat at work
Obviously, a lot of bosses are not big fans of this, but the engineers behind AIM were concerned with consumers, not bosses. They created features in AIM that allowed it to get around network blocks, which we should all be thankful for – now online chatting at work is basically sacrosanct!
5. AIM was at the center of a tech feud
AOL wanted to keep their IM technology to themselves, and they refused to let outside developers see it in the late 1990s. Microsoft and Yahoo both tried to create software that would allow their customers to chat with AIM users, and AOL was not happy. AOL blocked Microsoft’s software, they tweaked it, and AOL blocked again. Apparently this happened a whopping 21 times before Microsoft finally gave up.
6. It was almost the next Napster
A project internal engineers called “Aimster” sought to give AIM file-sharing capabilities like the notorious Napster. The project never made it out of the development phase, however…
7. AIM was a huge influence on Gchat
AIM was groundbreaking, no question about it, and the program resonates in the way we chat today. One of the lead software developers for Google messaging apps, James Uberti, played a big role at AIM. His digital fingerprints are all over Google, just like they were at AIM.
h/t: Mental Floss