10 Instant Messaging Services That Used to Be Popular

Remember when you had to sit in front of a huge computer to chat online?

In this day and age, it's totally normal for people to message each other with photos, videos, animoji, and emoji from a handheld piece of technology using popular apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and others. Given how mainstream these apps have become, it's sort of hard to believe that just less than a couple of decades ago, none of these apps existed at all.

Those who are old enough to remember using a much simpler version of the internet probably also had some experience with one or two popular instant messaging services that popped up during those days. Can you remember your favorite one?

Teenagers laying on floor using technology
JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

For a quick trip down memory lane, have a look at some of the old instant messaging tools the world grew to love back before the internet was such a social place.

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Back in 1996, ICQ became the real first instant messaging service to be embraced by users from all over the world. Remember the "uh-oh!" sound it made when a new message was received? It was eventually acquired by AOL in 1998 and peaked at more than 100 million registered users. ICQ is still around today, updated for modern-day messaging.

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AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)

In 1997, AIM was launched by AOL and eventually became popular enough to capture the largest share of instant messaging users throughout North America. You can no longer use AIM; it was shut down in 2017.

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Yahoo! Pager (Later Yahoo! Messenger)

Yahoo! launched its own messenger in 1998 and, while it's not available anymore, was one of the most popular IM services. Formerly called Yahoo! Pager back when it first came out, the tool was also launched alongside its popular Yahoo Chat feature for online chatrooms, which was retired in 2012. 

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MSN / Windows Live Messenger

MSN Messenger was introduced by Microsoft in 1999 and grew to become the messenger tool of choice by many throughout the 2000s. By 2009, it had over 330 million monthly active users. The service was rebranded as Windows Live Messenger in 2005 before it was completely shut down in 2014, with users encouraged to move to Skype.

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Today, we have Apple's Messages app, but back in the early 2000s, Apple used a different instant messaging tool called iChat. It worked as an AIM client for Mac users, which could be fully integrated with users' address books and mail. Apple finally pulled the plug on iChat in 2014 for Macs running old OS X versions.

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Google Talk

Long before the Google+ social network was rolled out alongside its corresponding Hangouts feature, Google Talk (often referred to as "GTalk" or "GChat") was the way that a lot of people chatted by text or voice. It was launched in 2005 and was integrated with Gmail. In 2015, the service is now on its way out as Google continues to develop and promote its newer Hangouts app instead.

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Gaim (Now called Pidgin)

Although it may not be among one of the more recognizable messaging services of the digital age, the 1998 launch of Gaim (eventually renamed Pidgin) certainly was a large player in the market, having over three million users by 2007. Known as "the universal chat client," people can still use it with popularly supported networks like AIM, Google Talk, IRC, SILC, XMPP, and others.

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Jabber came out in the year 2000, attracting users for its ability to be integrated with their friend lists on AIM, Yahoo! Messenger and MSN Messenger so they could chat with them all from one place. The ​Jabber.org website is still up, but it appears that the registration page has been disabled. 

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Back when MySpace dominated the social networking world, MySpaceIM gave users a way to privately message each other. Launched in 2006, it was the first social network to bring an instant messaging feature to its platform. MySpaceIM is still downloadable today, however, with its recently massive design overhaul it doesn't look like there's a web option.

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Even though this article is about "old" instant messaging services, Skype is actually still quite popular today, especially for video chatting. The service was launched in 2003 and rose to popularity against competing tools like MSN Messenger. In an effort to keep up with the times, Skype launched a new mobile messaging app called Qik recently that looks and feels a lot like Snapchat.

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