Oh, what a simple time we lived in during the rise of instant messaging (IM) and America Online Messaging (AIM)! I may be dating myself here, but I came of digital age during the AIM period. I had just moved to a new city and I was so homesick, I cried myself to sleep most nights. However, when I heard that exciting sound of someone messaging me, my heart fluttered and I cried no more. AIM allowed me to connect instantly with everyone I knew and loved! We giggled (digitally and literally) when we used our shorthand for “rolling of the floor laughing” (ROTL), or “be right back” (BRB), or “oh, my goodness” (OMG). We did not use “oh, my God” because we were good Catholics who would never call the Lord’s name in vain! LOL At least we tried! When we knew what the ‘G’ stood for in OMG, we blushed and gasped simultaneously! Ahh, really the simpler times of our youth!
At that time (mid 2000s) AIM was such a big deal for us — there was nothing that could be better. However, little did we know what was to come. Alice Chuang, a product designer at Facebook Messenger, told Vox …that AIM profoundly influenced both the world of messaging design and … transitioned us into the world of digital communication’ (Romano, 2017).
How AIM influenced us:
Chat rooms: Before Aim, there were internet chats such as IRC, internet relay chat, an internet chat system for instant messaging. But AIM really gave us that chat room, where we thought we were safe from the larger world of the internet.
Daily lives: It became part of our dally life. It made my friends seem like they were just around the corner because I could ‘TTYL’ (talk to you later).
Virtual Interactivity: “AIM offered us that first crucial taste of the interactive world we now occupy … It was part of a cultural moment where its level of virtual interactivity was still new and exciting: when making friends on the internet was still a scary and exhilarating experience” (Romano, 2017).
Chat window: When that little yellow man showed up the excitement grew because it meant chatting away with my friends, who didn’t seem so far away at that point! This was the precursor to texting and social media. “AIM paved the way for real time communication as we know it today … to further connect our world and enrich the way we communicate with the people and businesses we love.” (Romano, 2017).
What came next
There are so many applications which were borne out of AIM — Skype, iChat, SnapChat, Telegram, What’s App, Facebook Messenger, and on and on and on! iChat is a descendant of AIM, using (in part) the OSCAR (Open System for CommunicAtion in Realtime) protocol. The two main ones that have dominated the market are What’s App and Facebook Messenger.
What’s App (owned by Meta, who is also Facebook’s parent) is an encrypted messenger app that allows people worldwide to message each other with no fees. Most people will use What’s App to speak to each other without having to have an international calling plan and probably for others, a more unsavory communication channel because of its encryption. It is also used for business to increase a brand’s online visibility and engage with its customers. “When customers inquire, they always expect on-time responses from your customer care desk. What’s App makes it easier to interact and engage your customers through direct messaging” (Devji-Jethwa, 2022).
Facebook, the giant social media company, had a messenger capability as part of the main app, did away with it, but then relaunched it (Facebook Messenger (FM)) as its own standalone app. It does the same thing as What’s App, without the encryption. “FM, commonly known as Messenger, is a desktop messenger and merge program that offers FM for messaging, voice chat, and calls. FM is integrated with the Facebook chat function and also works independently” (Smith, 2022). According to FM’s website, “Among people surveyed who message businesses the majority say being able to message a business helps them feel more confident about the brand” (Facebook Messenger, 2022). They have used integrated marketing to bring a more holistic way to approach business. “Messenger is a multi-purpose tool and a game-changer for streamlining communications with people. There are innumerable benefits to using it for your business, whether it is for improving customer interactions, facilitating consumer concerns, generating leads or establishing a trustworthy brand” (Fernandez, 2020).
Social media apps are as much fun nowadays, as when AIM was around (for obvious different reasons; one was for basic connectivity at a time when it was not readily available to the masses and the other for the things they can now do). They have taken 100 steps forward by integrating a marketing component that was not as prominent back in the beginning days of America Online Messaging and businesses cannot operate without social media. Who knows what’s to come, but if it’s anything like AIM and Facebook, we’re in for an exciting ride!
Desjardins, J. (2016, November 17). The evolution of Instant Messaging. Visual Capitalist. Retrieved from https://www.visualcapitalist.com/evolution-instant-messaging/
Devji-Jethwa, S. (2022, February 2022). WhatsApp Marketing in 2022: Ready-to-use campaign ideas for consumer brands in the U.K. Moengage. Retrieved from https://www.moengage.com/blog/whatsapp-marketing-campaign-ideas-for-consumer-brands-in-the-u-k/
Facebook Messenger, (2022). Messaging inspires trust. Facebook Messenger. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/business/marketing/messenger
Fernandez, Veronica Figueroa, (2020, August 10).7 benefits of using Facebook Messenger for your business. Boldist. Retrieved from https://boldist.co/social-media-marketing/using-facebook-messenger-for-your-business/
Romano, A. (2017, December 15). Saying goodbye to AIM, the instant messenger that changed how we communicate. Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/12/15/16780418/aim-aol-instant-messenger-shutdown-cultural-impact
Smith, M. (2022, February 15). Best alternatives of GroupMe. Bollyinside. Retrieved from https://www.bollyinside.com/articles/best-alternatives-of-groupme/
Sweet, Stuart (2017, October 6). AOL Instant Messenger shutting down, roughly 7 people are upset about that. Solidly Signal. Retrieved from https://blog.solidsignal.com/news/aol-instant-messenger-shutting-roughly-7-people-upset/