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AOL is shutting down AIM, its iconic instant messaging service

Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

AOL is shutting down its instant messaging service, and a vast cry of nostalgic despair is emerging from people who were online and chatting during the 1990s.

For ’90s kids, AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, was texting and Facebook and Gchat and Twitter DMs all rolled into one. It was where angsty teenagers posted song lyrics as their “away messages” so the world could see that truly, they were deep; it was where middle schoolers learned how to flirt. As such, AIM users across Twitter united to reminisce:

AIM’s legacy is not just nostalgic, however: It was also the first mainstream messaging service (sorry, ICQ and MSN Messenger devotees), and as such, it shaped all of the messaging services that would follow it. As David Pierce points out at Wired:

AIM was a precursor to the modern social internet in so many ways. Custom Buddy Icons were the proto-profile picture. Colorful, ASCII art-rich profiles were the original MySpace page. AIM did voice chat before Skype, file-sharing before Dropbox. Any sufficiently sophisticated AIM user remembers SmarterChild, the dour, bizarre chatbot that would help you answer basic questions or debate the fate of the universe.

AIM will be shutting down on December 15 of this year. That gives you just over two months to figure out how to download an adolescence’s worth of chat logs.

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