By Austen Hufford
AOL Instant Messenger has set up an away message --
The messaging service, also called AIM, is shutting down Dec.
AOL Instant Messenger, which is now owned by Verizon
Communications Inc., brought instant messaging into the mainstream
by becoming one of the first chat platforms to gain widespread
adoption on desktop computers, allowing users to instantly
communicate with one another over the internet.
The platform, launched in 1997, helped usher in a new shorthand
lingo, such as "lol" for laugh out loud. AIM was particularly known
for its "buddy list," which let users know if their friends and
contacts were available to chat, and being early to use emoticons
in messages with its roster of built-in smiley faces.
"AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural
shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has
profoundly changed," the messaging service posted on its
Users on social media lamented its end, even though many have
since moved to other platforms. AIM is "more of a symbol than
anything else," said Thomas Husson, an analyst with Forrester who
follows emerging technology. "It's the end of an era for the first
generation of internet users."
Barry Appelman, the technologist at AOL who first thought up the
buddy list and successfully pushed for the platform to launch
beyond AOL's paying subscribers, said the platform brought instant
messaging to the public.
"There are very few technologies that you can look at that last
more than 20 years. Twenty years is a good run," Mr. Appelman said.
"Its clones live on around the world."
AIM's simplicity and wide-spread adoption led the platform to
serve many uses, from adolescent chit-chat to facilitating
financial trades and intra-office communication.
The importance in financial markets of web-based services such
as AIM and Yahoo Messenger has diminished with the rise of other
communications technologies, notably the messaging function on the
Bloomberg terminal. Yet many traders have stuck with AIM in part
because of its earlier popularity and because they are familiar
Anticipating the shutdown of AIM and Yahoo Messenger's former
version, Intercontinental Exchange Inc. has been snatching up chat
users for its ICE IM chat and sent an email Friday encouraging AIM
users to move over to its platform with their existing handles.
"We are ready to service their instant-messaging needs," ICE
said in a note to traders.
Michael Kerensky, a trader at R. J. O'Brien & Associates,
said about 98% of transactions happen over messenger applications,
including AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo and Bloomberg chat and, more
recently ICE IM. But Mr. Kerensky said sometimes it is hard to find
clients who have moved off various messenger services or have been
forced to take on new handles when they switch platforms. Some have
used the same chat handles for 20 years and never pick up the
"It's a pain to find people, because sometimes you don't even
know their full name when you're chatting them," he said.
One trader who makes "macro" bets using exchange-traded funds,
said he has around 40 customers who use AIM in part because they
don't use the Bloomberg chat. Those traders are now considering
other options, including the chat service operated by Symphony LLC,
a private firm backed by large Wall Street banks and money
managers, he said.
Dow Jones Newswires, a wire service of Dow Jones & Co.,
publisher of The Wall Street Journal, is a provider of news on the
Symphony platform and competes with Bloomberg.
Anurag Lal, president and CEO of Infinite Convergence based
outside of Chicago, said the AIM was popular with people back in
the 1990s because it was ubiquitous and a market leader. But later
on, it "lost its ubiquity" and people moved to other platforms.
Kyle Cooper, a consultant at ION Energy Group, said he has been
using AIM for 10 to 15 years, as did many natural gas traders he
"I guess I'm just an old dinosaur but I still use it somewhat,"
he said. "It's just old school."
AIM's fate follows the path of other older messaging platforms
that have shut down in recent years, including MSN Messenger in
2014 and Yahoo Messenger last year.
The move also offers reminders on how AOL, formerly called
America Online, has struggled to turn its early internet dominance
into leading the next generation of internet services. The chat
platform grew from 13 million users in 1997 to 65.5 million users
in 2000. It isn't immediately clear how many users the platform has
Users eventually flocked to social-media platforms, like
Facebook, and then onto messaging apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook
Messenger. In 2014, Facebook Inc. agreed to buy messaging company
WhatsApp for $19 billion and business-focused messaging platform
Slack recently closed a $250 million funding round, valuing the
company at $5.1 billion.
In 2015, Verizon Communications Inc. agreed to buy AOL Inc. for
$4.4 billion, a deal aimed at advancing the telecom giant's growth
ambitions in mobile video and advertising.
Allison Prang, Alison Sider, Chris Dieterich and Julie Wernau
contributed to this article.
Write to Austen Hufford at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 06, 2017 13:34 ET (17:34 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.