Oh, AOL. The company that opened the gates to the Internet for so many of us has definitely had its troubles as of late. It’s sad to see what is going on at the company, especially since products like AOL Instant Messenger were commonplace for so many of us “back in the day”.
As Nick Bilton from the NYT reported this week, the AIM team has been gutted with over 40 people losing their jobs. One of those leaving is Jason Shellen, AOL messenger product’s vice president.
We are not killing instant messenger. We’ll continue to support it and evolve the product.
Unfortunately for AOL, AIM is already dead. Suggesting that the company would “evolve” the product is a load of crap, considering that the product hasn’t evolved at all over the years coupled with the fact that it just axed the entire team that works on it.
Support the product? Sure. The company will continue to answer emails about why poor users can’t log in and provide them with a link to reset their password. But that’s about it because once again for AOL, the ship has sailed on yet another opportunity to stay relevant.
Over the years, chat has become a feature and not a product. To create a product built solely around chatting you’d have to make it a damn good one. Sadly, AIM was never really that good. It’s still alive though because over the years it became the Internet address of choice for users as they gave their username out to friends, family, and colleagues. It’s like an email address, nearly impossible to move away from.
But like all addresses, they change in the future as we grow and up want more from the place we call home. AOL had a really great shot to build a fantastic house. Signups and eyeballs were never a problem for the company or the product and users never saw a reason to try something else. Once Gchat and Facebook came along though, it was all over.
One of the most discussed products at conferences and geek meetups I go to is AIM. Not because it’s great, but because of what it could have become. Had AOL decided to put some muscle behind it with a new name, great marketing, and an updated feature-set, it could have been a monster. It could have been something that Facebook would be integrating, not moving users away from.
AOL had a chance to be the chat tool on the web and mobile, especially since it was the first app that let you message people on a mobile phone via text message. That’s right, all of those text messaging apps out there copied a really cool AIM feature. I’m glad they did because AOL never promoted it themselves.
You really humped the hamster on this one AOL, but don’t try to fool us into thinking that you’ll start caring again by evolving, because you never cared to begin with.