AIM (software)

AIM's logo, as seen in its Version 1.0 release (1997)
AIM's logo, as seen in its Version 1.0 release (1997)
Initial releaseMay 1997; 21 years ago (1997-05)
Written inC++, Adobe Flash
Operating systemMicrosoft Windows, Windows Mobile, macOS, Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS
TypeInstant messaging

AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) was an instant messaging and presence computer program created by AOL, which used the proprietary OSCAR instant messaging protocol and the TOC protocol to allow registered users to communicate in real time.

AIM was popular from the late 1990s to the late 2000s in North America, and was the leading instant messaging application in that region. AIM's popularity declined steeply in the early 2010s as Internet social networks like Facebook and Twitter gained popularity, and its fall has often been compared with other once-popular Internet services such as Myspace.[1]

In June 2015, AOL was acquired by Verizon Communications.[2][3] In June 2017, Verizon combined AOL and Yahoo into its subsidiary, Oath. The company discontinued AIM as a service on December 15, 2017.[4]


AOL Instant Messenger was initially integrated into AOL Desktop and later also released as a stand-alone download by America Online (AOL) in May 1997 for Microsoft Windows.[5] AIM was an outgrowth of "online messages" in the original platform (1980's) written in PL/1 on a Stratus computer by Dave Brown. The software, maintained by AOL, Inc., at one time had the largest share of the instant messaging market in North America, especially in the United States (with 52% of the total reported as of 2006).[6] This does not include other instant messaging software related to or developed by AOL, such as ICQ and iChat.

Its main competitors during its heyday were ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger and MSN Messenger. AOL particularly had a rivalry or "chat war" with rival Microsoft starting in 1999. There were several attempts from Microsoft to simultaneously log into their own and AIM's protocol servers. AOL were not happy about this and started blocking MSN Messenger from being able to access AIM.[7][8]

AIM went officially mobile in early 2008 when the application was released for Windows Mobile devices and allowed for all devices to send instant messages via SMS.[9] However AIM could already be used on various devices beforehand with third-party applications, and as early as 2002 on a Sidekick.[10]

After 2012, stand-alone official AIM client software includes advertisements and was available for Microsoft Windows, Windows Mobile, Classic Mac OS, macOS, Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS.[11]

Usage decline and product sunset

Around 2011, AIM started to lose popularity rapidly, partly due to the quick rise of Gmail and its built-in real-name Google Chat instant messenger integration in 2011 and because many people started purely moving onto SMS text messaging and later social networking Web sites for instant messaging, in particular, Facebook Messenger, which was released as a standalone application the same year.

As of June 2011, one source reported AOL Instant Messenger market share had collapsed to 0.73%.[12] However, this number only reflects installed IM applications, and not active users. The engineers responsible for AIM claimed that they were unable to convince AOL management that free was the future.[13]

On March 3, 2012, AOL ended employment of AIM's development staff while leaving it active and with help support still provided.[14] On October 6, 2017, it was announced that the AIM service would be discontinued on December 15;[15][4][16] however, a non-profit development team known as Wildman Productions started up a server for older versions of AOL Instant Messenger known as AIM Phoenix.[17]

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