Toward the mid-1990s, America Online (by then going by its nickname, AOL) was the company through which most Americans accessed the Internet. As many as half of the CD-ROMs produced at the time bore the near-ubiquitous AOL logo, offering early computer users the opportunity to surf the Internet for a flat fee – at the time, US$19.99 for unlimited monthly access.
With nearly half of U.S.-based Internet traffic flowing through AOL, the stage was set for a social evolution of sorts that shifted our collective relationship with technology and each other. AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, was launched in May 1997 as a way for AOL users to chat each other in real time, via text.
The service’s Dec. 15 shutdown was announced, notably, on a new real-time text communication channel, Twitter. That is just one testament to AIM’s lasting effects on how people use technology to connect today.