What Was AIM?

AOL Instant Messenger shut down in 2017

AIM desktop client

AOL

Introduced in 1997, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), 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."

AIM 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 login 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 communicate with any of your contacts instantly.

Not only did AIM support one-on-one chats and group IMs, it also let you chat with your Google Talk friends, could connect 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 AIM mobile app, you could use the AIM for TXT service to send and receive text messages with your Buddy List via SMS.

Another way to use AOL Instant Messenger 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.

Other features were released 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

This 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 users
  • 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 be shutting 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 there are loads of third-party apps, services, and desktop programs that work much as AIM did.

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

Other instant messaging applications exist, too, 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. Some other examples include WhatsApp, Telegram, LINE, Snapchat, and Kik.