Brief History of AOL and its Instant Messenger Program

AOL History

America Online no longer bombards potential AND existing customers with CDs offering hundreds of hours as part of their free trial. Once the world’s largest ISP based on subscriber count, they are a shadow of their former selves, but surprisingly they still exist.

The projects that were to become AOL were mainly focused on computer games. The AOL brand first appeared in 1991 with AOL for DOS and it didn’t leave its gaming history behind it. AOL 1.0 for Windows and MacIntosh followed in 1992 and 1993. AOL’s popularity was based on its ease of use and brand exposure. Competitors required a greater learning curve. AOL made getting online and communicating in multiple facets – web, mail, IM, chat – much easier for the average consumer at the time with a unique user-friendly interface.

AOL Milestones and Release History

Some major milestones in AOL Release history:

AOL for DOS February 1991

AOL 1.0 for Windows 3.x November 1992

AOL 1.0 for Mac January 1993

AOL 1.5 for Windows 3.x June 1994

AOL 2.0 for Windows 3.x September 1994

AOL 2.5 for Windows 3.x June 1995

AOL 3.0 for Windows 95 June 1996

AOL 4.0 July 1998

AOL 5.0 September 1999

AOL 6.0 October 2000

AOL 6.0 for Windows XP September 2001

AOL 7.0 October 2001

AOL 8.0 October 2002

AOL 9.0 August 2003

AOL 9.0 Security Edition November 2004

AOL 9.0 for Vista November 2006

AOL 10.0 (AOL Desktop) December 2007

AOL 10.0 for Mac May 2008

AOL has added a plethora of services and products over the years to complement their internet access service package and internet portal. Instant messaging and web storage highlight a number of features that made AOL so popular. Subscriber numbers peaked at over 25 million in 2002 to well under 10 million in early 2008. Many small businesses still use aol.com addresses for e-mail communication, but those numbers are dwindling as well. Certainly, AOL has been a reasonable collaboration tool for mom and pop businesses with little or no internet expertise.

AOL Instant Messenger

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is free as well and remains popular. It is available for several platforms, especially Windows and Mac. Figure 1 shows AIM 6.8 on Windows Vista. In August 2006, AOL began offering all of its services for free. AOL looks more like Yahoo! these days both as an information portal [See Figure 2] and a web-based e-mail client [See Figure 3]. AOL recently announced they would be cutting a few product lines, including AOL Pictures, BlueString and XDrive, to focus on an advertisement-based revenue model.

Screenshots

AOL Instant Messenger 6.8 on Vista
AOL Web Portal
AOL Web Mail

This post is part of the series: A Brief History

The Brief History series of articles summarizes products and applications in the messaging and collaboration realm.
  1. A Brief History of Microsoft Outlook
  2. A Brief History of Microsoft Exchange Server
  3. A Brief History of RSS Feeds & Who Invented It
  4. A Brief History of AOL
  5. A Brief History of Skype
  6. A Brief History of Zimbra Collaboration Suite
  7. A Brief History of the Blackberry