Janet Aronica

Two weeks ago, the internet unanimously barely blinked its eyes with the news that AOL had chosen to kill off AIM, the once-prominent instant messaging service. Outside of maintainence, the application’s 40 employees in charge of development have been let go. So while AOL will still exist, no further growth or development will be made.

That’s sad though. What if AIM actually went away? I mean, really: AIM was kind of like our first social network. I’m sure it’s what Mark Zuckerburg was logged into as he crushed code growing up as merely a boy nerd. I’d go so far as to say this – the activity of AIM helped groom a generation of digital kids, multi-taskers who did homework with multiple chat windows open plus a textbook plus music playing. Homework wasn’t so bad after all – and we expected or hoped for the same from our real jobs. It prepared, or prompted, or inspired us to work for the internet as community managers and developers, with our multiple monitors and browsers and dubstep and all. I suppose I see a lot of myself in that.

Top 10 Things We’ll Miss About AIM

Appropriately, I posed this question to my Facebook friends: “What are the top things you miss about AIM?”

Here are the top 10:

1. Finding the best lyrics for your away message.

YES! This was such a huge decision. I mean do we go for the passive aggressive Avril Lavigne chorus line or really-not-as-obscure-as-you-were-hoping-it’d-be Mae reference that absolutely no one would get. Big decisions you guys, important stuff.

2. Away messages in general.

Sorry Twitter. AIM was the first to ask “What are you doing?” And sometimes they got the most literal answer – “Away”… “Brb”… When you finally got broadband, you were always signed in, and always had an away message up.

3. Choosing the right order of initials of your best friends to feature in your buddy profile.

Remember doing that? Listing all of your friends in your buddy profile? And then if you left someone out they’d be sooooo mad.

4. ASL?

Age, sex, location. My dear friend Ryan appropriately pointed out that Rapportive completely defeats this now that they show you social profiles right alongside emails. We’re all too internet famous these days. We’ve lost our mystery.

5. Decorating your buddy profile!

I think the AIM buddy profile is really where that MySpace-esque, poor man’s HTML, Comic Sans marquee text in this color pink… just the general bastardization of the interwebs… first began. It’s the inception of personal branding, really.

I can go no further on this other than to leave you with these much more eloquent and much more fully formed thoughts from Gizmodo:

“AIM was also a sliver of who you were. In many ways, it was the internet’s first mainstream social network. AIM profiles were a cocktail of all MySpace’s tacky, inane juices squeezed out, but again, they were personal and public. Blank slates. White boxes. You could make them whatever you wanted—grating, bleeding pink text on black backgrounds, sprawling links, Odyssey-length inside jokes—anything that fit within the 1024 character limit. It was primitive but pioneering. And if you needed to say more, you could sign up for services that would trick your profile window into loading expanded profiles…As a teenager on AIM, your online persona had to be as carefully manicured as your real life one.”

6. Not having to worry about choosing a professional screen name.

Ah the carefree days before potential employers made you login to Facebook during interviews or suspended you from school for Tweets…amiright?

7. Categorizing your friends in your buddy lists and giving the buddy lists funny names.

These were Facebook lists and Google+ circles that people actually used.

8. Finding the best custom login and logout sounds for your friends.

It was all the joy of ringtones… ON YOUR PARENTS’ DESKTOP COMPUTER.

9. Its simplicity.

Product geekout here – I remember AIM being very straighforward. When you were away, you were away. When you were signed in, you were signed in. If someone signed out, you got that loud door shut noise. Someone actually needed to ask you for your screenname to add you to their buddy list, and it was probably some gawdawful combination of your favorite band and your birthday or graduation year – they couldn’t just guess it like now. Maybe it’s because that was before the social logins and integrations we have now.

Nowadays, with most chat systems, it’s like…was I signed in? Was I signed out? How did that message get pushed to my phone – did I sign up for that? How can I sign up for that?

10. Having a crush on someone and waiting for him to sign in.

This is cheesy, yes, but you know what I mean. Even the most cynical can relate to that entire exciting, disappointing, awkward, confusing and fun thing of conversing with someone you like online. For many people, AIM was the first digital platform for this experience.

What do you miss about AIM? Let us know in the comments!

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126 Responses to “Top 10 Things We’d Miss About AIM”

  1. PatPalingo says:

    @sarahkperkins I just got a little sad

  2. EvilPRGuy says:

    @jeffespo Check out the AIM story by @ChrisGethard on This American Life. Also involves NJ and violence. You’ll dig it. http://t.co/0e6zuE0K

  3. EvilPRGuy says:

    @jeffespo I haven’t AIM’ed in a long time, but definitely have many fond, geeky memories of it. THE 90’s FUTURE!

  4. EvilPRGuy says:

    @NBomb AIM was like the first tech crush machine! In a lot of ways it foreshadowed the TXT-ing revolution among kids that happened.

    • NBomb says:

      @EvilPRGuy actually met my first two girlfriends on MSN messenger, but I think that’s roughly the same thing. Good memories of IM!

  5. Pamela Simmons says:

    Nothing…didn’t even know it was gone

  6. Shareaholic says:

    Pamela still officially around, just laid off development staff :( So not growing anymore. On its way out essentially.

  7. Treedon says:

    @FrankFay you can iChat me anytime 22/m/tx

  8. Kam949 says:

    I feel like I just found out my best childhood friend died!! Although I admittedly haven’t used AIM in years, I find myself strolling down memory lane and I’m actually saddened to read this!! How else would I have gained the courage to talk to that cute boy and tell him that I have a crush on him? How else would all of my best friends and I have been able to enter a chat room together and goasip about well, anything and everything! Oh, and as far as the lyrics go…I must have spent more time reading lyrics for my away message so I could go do my homework than actually doing my homework!! R.I.P AIM *sigh*

  9. JohnHilla says:

    yipes. i meet my wife on AIM, but during that time we just called it’s formal name “America Online” apparently that was redundant so abbreviated to AOL and make it free..  wait that’s not selling change it to Aol perfect. Still not working, ok sell everything and re-brand with funny characters oh and get rid of the staff they are asking to many questions.. results Crystal and I out of work closing all the call centers.. geez.

  10. petergett says:

    @bmfalc @JanetAronica Great article, 1 big AIM nightmare was having multiple convos and sending a secret to the wrong person. UNDO! UNDO!

    • bmfalc says:

      @petergett YUP. Or on “chatting w/your crush” note, accidntally copying, pasting everything said (intended for 3rd party) into orig window..

  11. Steve Pecoraro says:

    Last time I used AIM was back in 1999.

  12. Bryan Searle says:


  13. Seth Goldstein says:

    Don’t miss much

  14. Srikar Dhanakoti says:


  15. Srikar Dhanakoti says:


  16. thunt27 says:

    @dreamyeyed AIM has been the only part of AOL worth using over the years

  17. bookoisseur says:

    @dreamyeyed Please….skype is sooo much cooler than AIM.

  18. Fr4nc3 says:

    @dreamyeyed we should use skype in the office

  19. pneumaz says:

    @dreamyeyed Well – you could just switch over to YIM, same basic setup and protocols.

  20. preincarnate says:

    @dreamyeyed I used it on my phone last night to watch Community with one of my online friends. It’s perfect for quick “omggg” flailing.

  21. McKelvie says:

    @dreamyeyed looks like it’s still going, just by being developed further.

  22. jembloomfield says:

    @brattylibrarian Ha! Absolutely. Oh, the joy of trying to work out who the song-lyric away messages were aimed at…

  23. JMDouville00 says:

    @dreamyeyed lol AOL should get rid of AOL. I mean what could their market share possibly be at?

  24. samcar455 says:

    @dreamyeyed I was online TF2 last night and i heard the iconic “doo-de-loo” of an incoming msg. To which I said “PEOPLE STILL USE AIM?!”

  25. Vinnobles says:

    @kirstenwright Oh wow! Didn’t know it had gone the way of the dodo… good times :)

  26. JanetAronica says:

    @numinews hehe :)

  27. The_Flocco says:

    @dreamyeyed one day the hipster’s will bring it back. Along with Netscape Navigator.

  28. MoFro13 says:

    @heyleebug54 @MegMeg614 @ievenwrotethis Haha, awesome

  29. nattydixon says:

    One side effect of AIM was that it produced the first generation of 90-words-per-minute typists (and maybe the last generation, with the evolution of voice recognition). Where Mavis Beacon had failed, hours of chatting, flirting and arguing made battle-hardened keyboard warriors out of all of us. 

  30. JDavidBeatty says:

    Fantastic writeup, Janet. Some serious nostalgia kicking in right about now. Even though I never use AIM anymore, “superman724” will forever hold a place near and dear in my heart as the first screen name I ever had back in 5th grade. Good times. A fond farewell.

    • JanetAronica says:

       @JDavidBeatty Haha it’s still around – you can still sign in! Just doesn’t look like there’s gonna be a ton of updates coming on the dev side. But sweet screen name.

  31. ashleyReneexO says:

    @ayoforrachel I remember all of those things!! #AIM

  32. FrederickLim_ says:

    @HuskyboyDrew Aim hasn’t even ended, Drew. Lol. It’s still perfectly fine and AOL hasn’t even announced that it’s going to be terminated.

    • HuskyboyDrew says:

      @FrederickLim_ I know I just saw that article on my fb news feed haha and just thought it was funny..

  33. LadyKitay says:

    @HuskyboyDrew @Shareaholic lol I totally agree with #1 xD

  34. abel says:

    @knarf55 wow can’t believe I didn’t hear of this sooner.

  35. peejesq says:

    @BH_Orange44 it is a sad sad day

  36. WBS says:

    not having a WARN button anymore :(

  37. Geen82 says:

    @geektastic Poor AIM! I’m glad it’s not shutting down completely, but sad that they’re not continuing with it.

  38. bulletbkr says:

    “You’ve got Mail!”
    Both a movie, and how I met my wife. Used to stay late after work to chat over the modem there, because dial-up at home was still kinda rare….(crap, I’m really dating myself here, aren’t I?) Rushing into work to check to see if she answered my letter from yesterday. Back when people still wrote letters, nice long ones.

  39. Allie says:

    I remember the painstaking moments when the internet was a bit shoddy and you signed in and out about 10 times in 5 minutes. I used to sit there laughing because it sounded like someone who couldn’t decide if they wanted to go inside or stay out. Open door…close door…open door… close door… open d.. close. 

  40. hubertvyee says:

    @Crowdbooster Anyway to export the data in my crowdbooster account? If not is there a workaround?

  41. DerekLe says:

    number 5,7, and 10

  42. Guest says:

    I remember that having AIM on my very first cell phone was a REALLY BIG DEAL!!! and I’d constantly be checking it throughout class!!!

  43. smiley0416 says:

    Number 10… my god! Every door open sound would send you checking if it was Her. And then when it was, and your heart starts beating so fast, but before you can figure out the right thing to say, she signed off… Crushing.

  44. douglasderda says:

    @WPXI_Cara that sucks. I still use it and know plenty of people that do also

  45. sammCSMT says:

    @Morgan_L_Nelson woah I haven’t logged into AIM in forever! At least there’s still iChat, gChat, Facebook chat, etc. haha #csmt12

  46. AScheerbaum says:

    @ValerieHeruska AIM is gone?! Interesting we use it a lot to communicate with deaf/hard of hearing students (have my AIM name in email sig!)

  47. KelseyLabrot says:

    YES YES YES yes to everything (esp #10, let’s be real) RT @SamTayRey http://t.co/Z9Wpyxkt @KelseyLabrot @rosearlene @syr0p

  48. CurtisTMEd says:

    The funny thing is, I actually did create a “professional” AIM profile. When I took my first position, AIM was still en vogue enough (and GoogleChat had not yet taken hold) that it was a handy tool for interoffice communication. 

  49. shawnbrackett says:

    @ValerieHeruska The author referenced my favourite band, Mae! Still sad to see AIM ride into the sunset.

  50. jessRLew says:

    @Lahartnett33 sbnumba1…referring to the fact I thought spongebob was number 1 to me

  51. JMB0107 says:

    @CEMurf I wasted HOURS on AIM. Hours. #RIP

  52. JanetAronica says:

    @mgflip aw :) thanks buddy!

  53. stargatesg1girl says:

    @jenOOgle me either when did that happen

  54. JacquelineKamel says:

    Absolutely every single thing you just said.
    A freaking +.
    Remember when you were eventually able to change the screen names to their real names, and you started forgetting peoples’ screen names? Once that started to happen, I’d change them all back. Not being able to recognize a screen name was as heartbreaking as knowing AIM is going away. there are only a couple of people I could rely on aim to talk to now, but with text messaging, and facebook chat, I’m 22. When I started in college, AIM became a huge deal again…but again, with Facebook chat a couple of years ago, it quickly died out, and now…nobody needs it. 
    I’m gonna miss you AIM. And especially you, AIM profile-you were the only thing I could ever truly be confident about in my adolescence. 

  55. heysuburban says:

    “I’m playing a computer game that takes up the whole screen.”

  56. AIMNO1 says:

    An AOL spokesperson has since told Computerworld that the company isn’t killing Instant Messenger and they will continue to support and evolve the product.

  57. JessVolpe says:

    @JenAlison I know me too! Oh AIM – those were the college days :)

  58. Calalili says:

    I used to assign those AIM alerts to my crushes. The cash register noise was always for my #1 crush. And the cow moo was always for people I kinda sorta liked but they weren’t as important as my cash register crush.
    Also, I had several screen names (or “sn” as people tended to call them) that existed for various reasons (checking to see if someone blocked my main screen name, chatting with my best friend when I didn’t want to talk to anyone else.. and before the invisible feature of iChat came about, etc) and they were all extremely embarrassing.

  59. dunlop_c says:

    @faris @jenOOgle AIM is how I learned to type quickly.

  60. syalam says:

    @VirgiliaSingh sad to see it go. the username “syalam” was born out of my first time tasting the internet with AOL 2.0

  61. z06Dustin says:

    @VirgiliaSingh lots of flashbacks while reading that…especially about my pink profile text.

  62. SolSister23 says:

    wow! this makes me miss middle school and high school.

  63. thursday77 says:

    @TRISHVICI0US @jaysaintNY that is sad ):

  64. sweethollowdan says:

    Anyone remember “SmarterChild?” Always tried have to have a real convo with him and it never worked out the way we wanted it to…now we have things like Siri haha

  65. anneehurst says:

    @ChrissieSzy They left out harassing SmarterChild!

  66. h_nobel says:

    @GregSkloot before I upgraded to an away message I used to fake it by sending what sounded like an automated reply. I’ve since gotten cooler

  67. ShalaneWalker says:

    I do remember smarter tag! and I remember the screen name could NEVER be your actual name in case you needed to secretly prank people . . . oh and dont forget about you and your friends would form like a 5 person chat room and then every night yall would be in there!

  68. ShalaneWalker says:

    I do remember smarterchild! and I remember your screen name could NEVER be your actual name in case you needed to secretly prank people . . . oh and dont forget about you and your friends would form like a 5 person chat room and then every night yall would be in there!

  69. MWeiser22 says:

    @silverspeakers “Categorizing your friends in your buddy lists and giving the buddy lists funny names.” #guilty

  70. devindrumheller says:

    @krwebber1 What? I’ll never be able to talk online again!

    • krwebber1 says:

      @devindrumheller right! AIM and I go way back. It’s my fave service!

      • devindrumheller says:

        @krwebber1 I integrated AIM into GChat when they offered it. Problem now is figuring out if there are any contacts I actually need to save.

  71. jensane says:

    @JuniaTweets like!

  72. Harsheel_dBs says:

    @RaziaSKhan WHAT?! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

  73. Jflame7 says:

    I had 2 sn’s one that I left signed in 24/7 in my dorm and one that I used when I was at work in the library or in a computer lab, I would message myself reminders to do something requiring things I had left behind in my room, or that I needed to do at a specific time after I left work/the lab.

  74. RonaldPBarba says:

    @heytrisha Haha–oh, right, I forgot about the alternating cases: it was actually ‘HoLLaWanKsteR’

  75. kcastt says:

    @heytrisha LiLacTress01 and CaLLmEcAsTeYon, complete with alternating caps locks #whywasisoembarrassing

  76. sweets541 says:

    The thrill of getting “Accept” pop up boxes for messages from new screen names, who went out of their way to get in touch w/ me? I’m obviously so cool for people to go through all of that trouble! sweets541 forever!

  77. punkrck845 says:


  78. vicster113 says:

    A commenter mentioned smarterchild! Remember that? haha ohh AIM RT @nemlosada Now I really miss AIM #90sGirlProblems http://t.co/YWDpvSZi

  79. eshepherdess says:

    @lindsajd very true..oh the days of buddy profiles!

  80. Shareaholic says:

    @kayceer Right?! @Janetaronica was spot on. Thanks for sharing!

  81. chuck says:

    Wow, I remember at my old Highschool before you got a girls number u got her aim lol

  82. AL says:

    My mother was always amazed how I could simultaneously chat with so many people at the same time.

  83. Corey says:

    Animated buddy icons. :)

  84. benjamin3290 says:

    Remember those little quizzes you’d fill out in your profile that were about yourself? Or those “animated” buddy icons? That was my favorite. That, and being an awkward 13 year old trying to flirt with girls from school!

  85. nicoley says:

    making multiple accounts so you could AIM your crush pretending to be someone else! my friend made “BaseballBabe24” when she found out her crush played baseball and was number 28.. and then when he told her she acted like her “sn” (screenname, duh) was a total coincidence!

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  87. nickcerr117 says:

    Hahaha mann reading all this took me to a place that I just have not been to years and it felt great. You never know what you got till its gone. Soo true..

  88. […] are entering the workforce in droves. This is a generation who maintained multiple AIM conversations while cranking through high school home, enjoys multi-play video games and values group achievement […]

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