After two decades of running, the little yellow running man has reached the end of the race. Today, AOL Instant Messenger, known to the masses as AIM, announced it will be discontinued on December 15.
It isn't a complete surprise that the chat service — which preceded MySpace, Instagram DMs, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat — is coming to an end: The chat program hasn't been relevant in years. But in its heyday, the late 90s and early 2000s, AIM was a prominent presence in pop culture and essential to social acceptance for pre-teens and teens across the country. Michael Albers, VP of Communications Product at Oath, the Verizon venture combining Yahoo and AOL, penned a brief in memoriam to AIM, referencing its appearances in You've Got Mail and Sex and the City.
My memories of AIM take me back to the days when penning an away message required thoughtful capitalization and color coding, a buddy list had the potential to redefine the hallway hierarchy, and late night chats allowed for flirtation past curfew. It was a way to vent frustration about parents, get help on geometry homework, and gossip about what went down on the bus that day. It took drama to the virtual space.
Twitter reactions to today's news prove that an entire generation is reminiscing and mourning the expected death of AIM: Some are remembering the screen names that defined them (I will forever be lotrlover), others are thinking about how their early interactions on the platform informed much of their pre-adult lives.
Many of AIM's defining creations still live on: Buddy Lists have become friends and followers, and away messages are now status updates. But, as many have noted, AIM's end marks an end to the earliest days of computer messaging and social networking.
If you know your password, you still have the opportunity to look back at your old statuses and archived chats before December 15. It will probably be embarrassing, and maybe a bit cringey — I had one too many statuses that referred to my mom and dad as the "parental unit" — but once AIM is gone, they'll be gone for good.
RIP little yellow man. You had a good run.