What Happened to AIM Chat Rooms?

AIM chat rooms were a victim of the rise of social networking

The Rise and Fall of Chat Rooms
Chat rooms, once hugely popular in the '90s, were replaced by social networks.

Justin Lewis/Getty Images 

While AOL Instant Messenger chat rooms were once hugely popular, the rise in popularity of social networks resulted in the demise of AIM chat rooms, which were discontinued in 2010. (Ed. note: AIM Instant Messenger was discontinued in 2017.)

The Rise and Fall of Chat Rooms

In 1996, AOL made history by offering internet service for a flat monthly rate. For the first time in history, people were able to stay online for as long as they wanted without incurring expensive data charges. To grow its customer base, AOL produced CD-ROMs with the AOL software on them and mailed them to potential customers across the country. All the recipient had to do was insert the CD-ROM, install the software and enter a credit card for payment in order to get online. The strategy was hugely successful, and by 1999, AOL had a subscriber base of 17 million customers. 

One reason that a flat fee for internet service was appealing is due to the popularity of chat rooms. With unlimited internet service, people could stay online and chat for as long as they desired. Chat rooms were hugely popular at the time — in 1997, AOL hosted 19 million of them. 

Combine that with the advent of new internet technologies like DSL, which made AOL’s subscription model obsolete, and new paradigms for online social networking—Friendster, Myspace and Facebook—and the chat room's demise was obvious, if not imminent.

By the early 2000s, two changes had taken place:

  • Cable and DSL modems became increasingly available and accessible to the public at large. The availability of better, faster and more affordable technology affected the market for AOL's dial-up internet service. AOL's subscriber numbers began to plummet.
  • Friendster launched in 2002, MySpace in 2003 and Facebook in 2004. These early social networks gave people new platforms to connect and communicate. Many of them featured communities and group chat functionality, which eventually took the place of the old-school chat room.

Once the mass population had transitioned to social networks from chat rooms, owners of chat rooms began to shut them down. AOL did so in 2010, followed by Yahoo in 2012 and MSN in 2014. 

Where to Find Chat Rooms in 2018

Although chat rooms are no longer as popular as they once were, there is speculation that they are making a come back. Platforms such as Twitch, Migme, and Nimbuzz still offer chat rooms or features that operate like chat rooms—such as chats while watching a video as a group, for example—to meet new friends with similar interests from around the world.