What Was AIM (AOL Instant Messenger)?

AOL Instant Messenger shut down in 2017

Introduced in 1997, AOL Instant Messenger was one of the world's most popular instant messaging clients. The free AIM software let users send instant messages to anyone on their "Buddy List."

It also featured social media integration, photo and file sharing, video and audio chat, Buddy List themes/skins, and more.

On December 15, 2017, AIM was discontinued.

Looking for AIM Mail? While AIM, the instant messaging platform, is no longer around, AOL's mail service, sometimes called AIM Mail but officially called AOL Mail, is alive and well. You can log in to AIM Mail here using your old AIM username or full AOL email address.

What Was AIM?

AIM was a chat service available from desktops, mobile devices, and web browsers. You could log in with your AOL account to instantly communicate with any of your contacts.

AIM desktop client

AIM didn't only support one-on-one chats and group IMs. It also allowed you to chat with your Google Talk friends and connected to your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube, Foursquare, and others) to show your feeds, trade files, and share location updates.

If you had an old phone that didn't support the mobile app, you could use the AIM for TXT service to send and receive text messages with your Buddy List through SMS.

Another way to use it was through AIM Mail (AOL Mail). There used to be a chat integration that connected with AIM, letting you view emails and chat messages in one place.

AOL released other features over the years:

  • AIM Express: Stripped-down, browser-based messenger for users that weren't running the standalone program
  • AIM Pages: Make an online profile
  • AIM Real-time IM: See what the other person was typing in real-time
  • AIM to mobile: Send texts to cell phones

AIM History

Here is a brief look at the history of AIM, including when some of the more prominent features were added and removed:

  • May 1997: AOL releases AIM as a standalone program for Windows
  • May 2006: AIM Pages is introduced, and then shuts down in 2007; AIM Phoneline is released to let users make and receive calls, and then shuts down in 2009
  • March 2008: iOS users can now install the AIM app
  • April 2010: AIM comes to the iPad
  • December 2010: AIM apps include ads and are now available for Mac, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and other platforms
  • June 2015: Verizon Communications purchases AOL
  • June 2017: Verizon combines AOL and Yahoo into Oath Inc (later rebranded as Verizon Media)
  • October 2017: It's announced that AOL will shut down
  • December 2017: AIM is discontinued

Why Did AIM Shut Down?

AOL had this to say in October 2017 about the AOL Instant Messenger shutdown:

We know there are so many loyal fans who have used AIM for decades; and we loved working and building the first chat app of its kind since 1997. Our focus will always be on providing the kind of innovative experiences consumers want. We’re more excited than ever to focus on building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products.

AIM Alternatives

AOL never provided an alternative chat program for AIM, but loads of other apps, services, and desktop programs work in much the same way.

One intriguing replacement is AIM Phoenix. It's not affiliated with AOL or Verizon Media, but instead is a server that allows some versions of AIM to work. The site offers AIM client downloads and directions for connecting to the server.

Other instant messaging applications also work, and they don't involve changing server settings or downloading archived programs. Facebook Messenger is a popular one that works from phones, tablets, desktops, and web browsers. Other examples include WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Snapchat, and Kik. Most of these apps also let you make free calls over the internet.

  • How do I delete my AIM/AOL account?

    To permanently delete your AOL account, log in to the AOL account termination page with your AOL or AIM user name and password. Then, select Continue to delete my account, confirm your email address, and select Yes, terminate this account > Got It.

  • Why does my AOL/AIM Mail page look different?

    If you're unhappy with the appearance, you can customize your AOL Mail settings. For example, to customize the view, go to Options > Customize and select the options you wish to apply. Or go to Options > Mail Settings and choose the tab for the settings you want to change, such as General, Compose, or Calendar.

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