Ready, AIM, Fire

AOL Instant Messenger is dead.  Well, not quite yet, but it will be on December 15.   AOL and Yahoo have been merged together as Oath in their respective mega-mergers with Verizon.  As a product offering AIM had to go.

In the 90’s, AOL made the Internet popular and approachable by the masses.  It wasn’t the first public service, but it was everywhere, flooding postal mailboxes with the ubiquitous shiny installation CDs.  AIM was introduced in 1997, it quickly assumed 52% of the instant messaging market, and remained dominant for nearly a decade.  AIM was the first service to offer emojis.  You signed up for AOL and acquired your “handle” (a term borrowed from 1980’s CB radio jargon) or screen name.If you were a true early adopter, you might select a screen name that resembled your actual name.  But if your name was already taken, then these screen names were in most cases ridiculous, such as RiverBunny1943 and the like.  Then you created your “Buddy List” of people you knew online.  But smartphone SMS messaging and services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat quickly overtook a rival that failed to adapt.  By 2011, AIM held less than a 1% share of all messaging services.

These days, people who cling to their old AOL email addresses are considered fossils, and subject to condescension and derision.  But these people, who may not have moved on or kept up technically with younger generations, were in fact the pioneers of a brave new world that was just being born.  They suffered through the difficultlies of dial-up modem access and slow speeds between 14 kbs and 96 kbs.  That right, kilobytes per second, not megabytes.  When DSL showed up around 1997, with a blistering speed of up to 256 K, we all thought we’d died and gone to heaven.  Today speeds below 20 MB are considered painfully slow.

Personally, I remember AIM as the service that kept my pre-teen and junior high school aged son from getting a good night’s sleep.  He would text with his “buddies” into the night, and chatted with people from all over the globe.  Not that I was happy about that.  I did have to explain to him how people online could assume any identity, and not to trust everything you saw online.  Still good advice.

So AIM is soon to be over, the end of an era.  It may be a precursor of other things to come for AOL email users.  It may finally be time to consider making the Gmail account that came attached to your Android phone your primary email account.  Just saying, this may just be the beginning of the end for other AOL properties.

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About the Author:

I am a cybersecurity and IT instructor, cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. I am an owner of the WyzCo Group Inc. In addition to consulting on security products and services, I also conduct security audits, compliance audits, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. I also teach Cybersecurity Awareness Training classes. I work as an information technology and cybersecurity instructor for several training and certification organizations. I have worked in corporate, military, government, and workforce development training environments I am a frequent speaker at professional conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, the (ISC)2 World Congress 2016, and the ISSA International Conference 2017, and many local community organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2006 at

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