As planned, AOL discontinued its instant messaging service on December 15. AOL Instant Messenger, better known as AIM, was first launched in 1997 and operated in several forms for the past 20 years.
For many people who first gained access to the internet in the 1990’s, AIM was the primary outlet for exchanging text messages over the web. At first the tool was embedded into the AOL desktop application for PC and Mac computers, which allowed customers to connect to the service through a dial-up modem. Upon signing up for AOL, each user would select a unique screen name that would identify them for email and instant messaging services. AOL eventually allowed customers to create multiple screen names from one account, so that each member of a family could use their own screen name.
One of the most popular features of the AOL desktop application was the buddy list, which allowed users to add the screen names of friends and family members to a contact list and initiate conversations with them over the internet. These text messages were sent in real-time and could also be used to transfer local files.
Later in 1997, AOL turned AIM into a separate application for PCs and Macs, so that users did not have to log in to the full desktop application in order to chat with friends. AIM quickly grew in popularity, especially among middle and high school students who would use the service to keep in touch with friends on their buddy list.
The AIM service began to lose favor during the smartphone revolution, when new services like Apple iMessage and Google Gchat arrived on the scene. AOL did build an AIM app for iPhone and Android devices, but in October of 2017, the AOL team announced that the service would be discontinued later in the year.
AOL is not currently planning to release a replacement app or service for AIM. The only aspect of the service not affected is the usage of email accounts associated with AIM screen names. These email accounts can continue to be used as normal. All other AIM data, including chat histories and saved images, were automatically deleted when the service was discontinued.