Death Of An Icon

A light will soon go out of the world, but only people who were young in the late 1990s to early 2000s will mourn it. After 20 years, AOL has announced that it will be taking it’s classic Instant Messenger offline in two months time. Instant Messenger was, for many, the first interaction they had with the internet, and their first attempts at shorthand language. A precursor to texting, Instant Messenger was one of the first real time text based popular communication methods, and paved the way for many different iterations.

AOL knew what it had in Instant Messenger was special, and for years after its 1997 launch, it fiercely protected the rights to its intellectual property. It stalled launches of similar programs from Microsoft and others, until they formed a coalition to complain to the FCC. But with the door open, it seemed like every social media site and computer system had it’s own form of instant messaging, and popularity of the original Instant Messenger has been declining steadily ever since.

The program will continue to function normally until December 15, at which time login will not be possible. AOL will delete all data and usernames / passwords. Michael Albers, the vice president of communications at Oath, said of the shutdown, “AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed.” Still, the program (and it’s iconic yellow man) will be missed.