AOL kills AIM
When I was growing up, AIM was the main system I used for communication over the web. I used it every day. In fact, the first time I ever experienced mobile data was through AIM on a never released beta product called the AOL Mobile Communicator, a small black box that was manufactured by a little-known startup called Research in Motion. Though I only had it for six months, that little device changed my life; it was the first time I can remember using a product that gave me a glimpse of the future.
It’s strange that AOL was never able to find a happy place for AIM. As the most popular instant messaging system in the United States for many years, AIM was a massive enterprise. But it was never really a product; no matter how hard AOL tried, AIM has always seemed to gravitate toward being something that is extremely difficult to monetize: a protocol. AOL tried to make it a social network, but failed miserably. They were on the cusp of trying to make it cool, but that effort has been cut short.
Last week, AOL laid off the entire AIM team. Only a skeleton crew is left behind. Nick Bilton reports at the New York Times:
The AOL Instant Messenger group took the deepest cut […]. A former AOL employee said the group was “eviscerated and now only consists of support staff.” This person, who asked not to be named because they were not allowed to speak publicly about the company, added that “nearly all of the West Coast tech team has been killed.”
There really isn’t much to say; AOL has given up on AIM. The servers will probably be kept up for a while. But at some point in the future, probably when no one cares anymore, AIM will sign off and never come back.