AOL Guts Instant Messenger Staff, Speeding Death Of Once-Popular Service

AOL Instant Messenger has been circling the drain of social irrelevance for a while now, and now it’s gotten to the point that the company apparently no longer believes in the future of AIM. AOL laid off 40 workers at its West Coast office, shedding seemingly all critical staff in the Instant Messenger division and leaving only a skeletal support infrastructure.

The New York Times reports this is just the beginning of the latest AOL bloodletting, with as many as 100 more employees expected to see pink slips by the end of the month. Workers at news service Patch.com are said to be next on the chopping block.

Chat services on Google and Facebook have seized much of AIM’s market share, and the layoffs are a likely sign that AOL no longer sees much reason to expend its time and resources in an effort to prep it for a comeback.

AOL Slashes Staff at AIM Unit; Wider Cuts Expected [The New York Times via Gizmodo]

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  1. a354174 says:

    I use AIM all the time. Why don’t people use it anymore? Oh wait, they do.

    • BuntaFujiwara says:

      I actually booted AIM the other day after not using it for years. Out of nearly 100 buddies, 2 were on and it was through their phones. AIM has become somewhat irrelevant with the explosion of tech devices, smartphones, tablets, facebook and other social media sites.

      That’s not to say it isn’t still used, but I really think it probably won’t be around in another 5 years time.

      • BurtReynolds says:

        Now I am tempted to see who is still on the old AIM. Used to have that up 24/7 in college.

        • coffeeculture says:

          Before the advent of status updates and 4 square check-ins I would have one on my away message and list my schedule that day of where’d I’d be…oh those were the days, haha

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Same here, we use it every day in our office. We can ask each other questions while talking on the phone to clients and it’s easier than texting.

      But I haven’t seen anyone outside the office signed into it in a very long time. All those user names that stay greyed out are probably long forgotten.

      • BadIdeaSociety says:

        I haven’t opened my AIM client in about three years.
        Have you considered installing something like Jabber or ICQ in the unlikely event that the program stops working?

    • 8bithero says:

      Because everybody can text on their phones now…

  2. UncleAl says:

    And in other news.. AOL is still around? I don’t think it’s just the IM piece of AOL that’s lost relevance.

  3. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Wait, so… AOL still exists? *headscratch*

    I thought they went extinct shortly after 300 baud modems…

  4. Chmeeee says:

    Add me to the AOL still exists? crowd, but Patch? I really like Patch, they are the only source of actually local (not copy/paste) news for my small town. Why does such a crappy company have to own such a good site?

  5. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    I remember AOL. Back in college they gave us those free CD’s in the picture. Obviously the dorms had free internet, so as a prank we got double-sided tape and covered the whole hall with the CD’s shiny side out.

    /End anecdote

    • Cat says:

      We used to hang them from fruit trees to help keep the birds from taking all the cherries. Now we use bad burned / no longer needed CDs and DVDs, with the advantage that both sides are shiny.

      • caradrake says:

        My grandma did the same thing back when I was a kid. They also discouraged deer somewhat. I used to love making them spin on their strings.

  6. Cat says:

    I don’t use it much anymore, but it’s there should I need it.

    Not everyone is on Facebook.

    • gqcarrick says:

      Exactly. A few of my buddies in IT security jobs won’t even use Facebook. Aim/email/phone is the only way to reach them.

      • Cat says:

        I can’t use Facebook at work, and there’s a lot of people (overseas) that have to live with dial up – and text messages also cost money.

        Using a program that’s not popular avoids many of the security risks of big targets, in much the same way that Firefox was safer than IE – before Firefox became so popular, and Firefox is now a big target, too.

        • Not Given says:

          My son said his company uses Freenode and Team meeting. They used to use Skype but it started sucking.

  7. captadam says:

    I haven’t signed in in years. Last time I did, it was very sad–like outliving your family and friends.

    • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

      I signed in last month, for the first time since 07 or 08, out of 220 friends only 10 were active and they were from when I studied abroad in Australia.

  8. humphrmi says:

    AIM had the chance to go toe-to-toe with Google Talk if they had adopted XMPP but sadly thought that their proprietary chat was the way to go.

  9. SkokieGuy says:

    Yup, big Patch fan here. They have legit local news and also promote local business, and not merely on a pay for play basis.

  10. penuspenuspenus says:

    I still use AIM, but through Pidgin. Not really sure what AOL gets out of instant messenger other than people using their resources.

    Find myself more and more annoyed with it as my phone, tablet, and laptop don’t play nicely if AIM is logged on at the same time. Losing messages to one device or another gets annoying.

  11. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    People still use AIM, but with unlimited texting plans, iMessage, etc. there just isn’t a need anymore. I haven’t used AIM in years, and I only use it now when friends are trying to organize plans and don’t want to use twitter because it would fill everyone’s timeline with many, many messages.

    • HomerSimpson says:

      Cheaper for me to use IM (and the bandwidth it entails) than text messages on my prepaid (Pageplsus) plan.

    • Tardis78 says:

      I use mine to talk with my wife while we are at work. It is easier than looking at my phone all day.

  12. mauispiderweb says:

    AOL: Dumbing down PC users since 1994.

    • ovalseven says:

      mE tO0!!1! lulz

    • quail says:

      Sadly, anytime I see someone using an AOL email I slowly shake my head. Really? Even when AOL was pushing their free 200 minutes on those crazy diskettes, everyone who knew anything thought of them as a joke. Even Time Warner after they acquired AOL told all of the business people not to use the email system because it couldn’t handle day to day business activity the way it should.

  13. Bremma says:

    As long as they keep the service running I’d be happy. It is the primary chat program I use, since I can use it at work and allows my parents an easy way to get hold of me. Also a large portion of my friends use it still and it is the easiest way for me to get hold of them.

  14. tinmanx says:

    If this means there will be no more official AIM client, I say it’s for the better. Use Pidgin for AIM at home and the web client on AOL.com at work.

    Strange story: My AIM account is my old AOL screen name which I cancelled, oh, maybe 10 years ago. Last year I found my AIM account locked for some reason, they gave me a phone number to call. I called and the guy at the other end told me it stopped working because I cancelled AOL and if I would like to sign up again. I said WTH, I cancelled it 10 years ago. I told him forget it, I’m giving up AIM too. After I said that he said he’ll just reactivate my account.

    So was AOL just trolling for some AOL signups?

    • BurtReynolds says:

      I distinctly remember not being able to keep my AOL name when my parents traded in AOL dial-up for Roadrunner (mind blowing upgrade by the way). I had to create a new AIM name and spread the word. That was in about 1999.

      Now how you slipped through the cracks, and why it took AOL 10 years to figure out what happened is another question.

  15. Torchwood says:

    Wait…. doesn’t AOL own ICQ also? No wait, they sold it to a Russian Internet company,

  16. Cat says:

    Q-Link OLM FTW!

  17. longfeltwant says:

    It completely blows my mind that AOL is still a company.

  18. Rocket says:

    I still use AIM as do some of my friends. It may be hard to tell all my friends to switch to a new service.

  19. Rick Sphinx says:

    1st I had Q-Link(Quantum Link), which became AOL. The first week I would get a local Internet Provider service, I quit AOL, couldn’t wait to get rid of it. Evertime you logged on or off, “updating artwork” came on. It was always doing something, whatever it wanted to do, not what I wanted to do right now. I used to hang the CD’s outside to keeps birds away from my blueberry bushes. The floppys made great coasters for for the coffee table. Also, over 15 years later, AOL sold my name to a collection agency, trying to collect $18. I had to go through hoops to #1, not pay it, #2 the statue of limitations is 7 years, not 15years, #3 get it fixed as to not harm my credit rating. I never owed them anything, when I cancelled, if they didn’t charge me enough on my last payment, which was automatic anyway, that’s their problem. I don’t pay bills over 1 year old, let alone 15 years! AOL can kiss my ass as far as I’m concerned. If consumer reports want to do something really worth while, make it illegal to sell old debt to these companies. They are all fraudsters. If you do get a call like this, tell them to send you a 30 day demand letter, and proof of the debt, which they will not be able to do. And if they don’t, they have broken the law anyway.

    • Rick Sphinx says:

      PS. If you get a collection call for AOL debt (my calls came from Allied Interstate collections). Email and call AOL Jerry MacKinley at AOL 1-703-265-8657 mackinleyj@aol.com to ge it fixed, he is at the corporate office.

  20. LightningUsagi says:

    My bf and I were just talking about this last night. We use it daily to talk to each other but I don’t think anyone else on my buddy list is ever logged on other than thru their phones. I guess it’s time to start looking at Google chat now.

  21. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    My company uses AIM – we have people in multiple locations from East Coast to West Coast, and it’s easy to ask quick questions without clogging up our email or trying to track someone down on the phone.

  22. BurtReynolds says:

    I drive past what used to be a huge (if not the “main”) AOL campus everyday and I think they are down to one building out of what used to be about five or six.

    The rest are now occupied by Raytheon. That consumer products stuff is for suckers.

  23. Kusac says:

    I still use AIM, but through Trillian nowadays.

  24. Coelacanth says:

    We use AIM quite extensively in the office… GChat and Facebook are blocked.

  25. El_Fez says:

    AOL has been circling the drain of social irrelevance for a while now

    There, fixed it for you. . . .

  26. mbz32190 says:

    That is odd as it looks like AIM (AOL) redid their website in the past few weeks and they put a new version out…I guess it is likely to be the last.

  27. j2.718ff says:

    I find it interesting how facebook (and I’m not talking about its chat feature) has replaced AIM for me. It used to be, all my friends and I were signed onto AIM 24/7. Away messages were the public “status update”. And if someone was at their computer, you could chat in real time.

    With facebook, you lose the real time aspect, but somehow it became more convenient. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like having a “chat” on a mobile device. Maybe it’s because I’m no longer a college student.

    • jesusofcool says:

      Really interesting observation. When I was in middle and high school in pre-Facebook days, AIM really was a sort of Facebook. Away messages were status updates, and there was a lot of mass messaging and chat groups for parties, group discussions etc. I’m actually really happy with Gchat because at least it’s bringing this more simplistic, less stalkerish concept back.

  28. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    Ha. I only use AIM for hooking up with strangers from Craigslist. I don’t want them having my phone number!

    /s

  29. remusrm says:

    I sill use the IM with my older clients:-) Facebook, Google and Yahoo suck for their use of monitoring and data mining. Also their emial is neat since I can use IMAP feature.

  30. shufflemoomin says:

    Wait, people were still working on this, let alone using it?

  31. rpjs says:

    “Workers at news service Patch.com are said to be next on the chopping block.”

    Interesting, had a recruiter tout a job at Patch.com at me just the other day.

    • drjayphd says:

      Maybe they’re just going to sack some of the less profitable pages. I hope they don’t drop the heavy hand of revenue on Patch’s editors… at least three of my former co-workers at my current job, as well as three former co-workers at my last job, edit Patch sites, and they generally do a good job. Patch’s quality hinges on their editors, so hopefully AOL stays out of their way and doesn’t make them focus on linkbait instead of actual journalism.

  32. almightytora says:

    The AIM client on Android doesn’t even have the famous “walking man” as AOL’s logo. It has this generic handwritten “a”.

    I read from the reviews that it was horrible, so I never upgraded to it.

    I also noticed that my PC version of AIM has began to forget my nicknames I have given people and replaced it with their REAL NAMES [gasp!].

    It would suck if AIM would vanish, but most of my friends use YIM, MSN, Skype, etc anyway.

  33. bikeoid says:

    I’m a huge Patch fan – hope it stays around. Unlike AIM, there’s no true local competition for Patch, and there would be no replacement if they shut it down.

  34. Jemaine says:

    AOL gave AIM a redesign not long ago, and messed up AIM. That’s when I quit using it.

  35. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    I believe my job as a statistical researcher will also eventually be rendered irrelevant by artificial computer intelligence. Hopefully by then I’ll be retired or already dead.

  36. tmc131414 says:

    I think AOL helped ensure its ultimate demise by offering the free AIM client at the same time it wanted people to pay for its service. Back in the late 90’s, my family had AOL like so many other people at the time. Of course, I wasn’t too thrilled with the quality of the service and the way it limited what you could see on the web. One day, I found out that you could download AOL instant messenger as a separate software component from AOL. I quickly realized that AIM worked far better and was far easier than the instant messenger installed on AOL (which was terrible and had very few features) and didn’t cost anything to use. Soon after, I cancelled AOL and continued to just use the free AIM software while paying for Road Runner. I never understood why AOL would offer a much better piece of software to the general public while making their paying customers utilize a more inferior version of the same program. I understand that they must have made a decent amount of money through ad revenue by offering AIM to the public, but I’m sure that it was far less than the $20-30 a month they used to make by offering monthly web service to customers.

  37. Rocket says:

    Does anyone even use the actual AIM client anymore? I use Pidgin/Adium on my computer and imo.im on my Android.

  38. karlmarx says:

    I love AOL.. I don’t like Google.. Or Gmail at all.