At the height of its popularity in the mid-1990s, America Online (AOL) was the de facto channel majority of Americans used to get online. AOL was then what Google and Facebook have become right now.
The company elicited such loyalty the CD-ROM manufacturer has the ubiquitous AOL printed on their backside. The company offered the first mass cohort of computer users free access to the internet at a flat fee; at the time Americans paid $19.99 for unlimited internet access per month.
Half of the internet users in the U.S. were on AOL, and the company had set a stage for social evolution by introducing a new paradigm of collective relationship with technology and ourselves.
Come 1997; the company launched the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), which allowed all AOL users chat with one another online via text and in real time. However, new internet companies such as Google and Yahoo came along and overthrew it as a leader in the cyberspace.
These days, what remains of AOL is a distant memory of the very old internet users. Today’s youths almost don’t know of its existence, and if they do, it is probably from a history lesson that includes ENIAC the first general-purpose computer.
AOL is set to retire its instant messaging app AIM today. The company took to ‘its rival’ (but more updated channel) to announce the shutting down of AIM; the announcement was made on Twitter.
During its peak years, AIM was a life-saver for family and friends far apart and needed to stay connected affordably. Even in 1997, the existing mobile phones were outrageously expensive; the Nokia 6160 went for $900 while the Motorola StarTAC hit $1,000.
Despite their high price tags, these phones could not do a basic function like sent a text message (SMS). It was either a phone call or nothing. Innovative users learned to use the pager-speak communication ‘143’ to say ‘I love you’ to their partners far away. Other began appreciating the value of email communication, but to do that, one had first get access to a landline and a computer terminal. Technology-based interactions were very limited, and not in real time until AOL came to the scene.
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