AOL Instant Messenger to Sign Off -- Update

By Austen Hufford Features Dow Jones Newswires

AOL Instant Messenger has set up an away message -- permanently.

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The messaging service, also called AIM, is shutting down later this year, the once-popular chat platform announced Friday through messages to users.

AOL Instant Messenger, now owned by Verizon Communications Inc., was one of the first chat platforms that gained widespread adoption on desktop computers, allowing users to instantly communicate with one another over the internet.

The platform helped popularize 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. AOL, which began offering a roster of 16 built-in smiley faces in 1998, was also early to the use of emoticons in messages.

"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 website.

The chat platform launched in 1997 will shut down Dec. 15. Users on social media lamented its end, even though many have since moved to other platforms.

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AIM is "more of a symbol than anything else," said Thomas Husson, an analyst with Forrester, who follows emerging tech and mobile. "It's the end of an era for the first generation of internet users."

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 reminder 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 currently.

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 it at $5.1 billion.

In 2015, Verizon agreed to buy AOL for $4.4 billion in a deal aimed at advancing the telecom giant's growth ambitions in mobile video and advertising. The Wall Street Journal reported in June that Verizon planned to cut 2,100 jobs as it worked to combine one-time rivals AOL and Yahoo.

Allison Prang contributed to this article.

Write to Austen Hufford at austen.hufford@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 06, 2017 12:11 ET (16:11 GMT)