Some of you may recall that last year and this year AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), the great granddaddy of social media and instant messaging services, wound down its operations through 2017 and then shut down completely on December 15 last year.
Now, Yahoo Instant Messenger, another famous legacy IM service, is also being shut down:
It’s the end of an era for Yahoo Messenger, one of the first instant messaging apps on the market. Today, Oath (which also owns TechCrunch) announced that it would be winding down the service on July 17 as it continues to experiment and consider how and if it can have a relevant place in the messaging landscape amid huge domination from Facebook and others in mobile apps.
“There currently isn’t a replacement product available for Yahoo Messenger,” the company writes. “We’re constantly experimenting with new services and apps, one of which is an invite-only group messaging app called Yahoo Squirrel (currently in beta).” Squirrel is a group messaging app Yahoo started testing last month. You can request access to the beta here.
Yahoo has not broken out active users of Messenger for some time, and theoretically anyone logged into any Yahoo property is logged into Messenger. Cumulatively over the last 20 years, hundreds of millions of people have used the service, the company said. The company says your Yahoo ID remains intact for other services like Mail and fantasy sports.
The company is not specific about its reasons for shutting down Messenger, but the writing has been on the wall for some time, given the dominance today of Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger, Snapchat, WeChat and a number of others. Notably, Oath also shut down AIM, AOL’s equivalent messaging app, in October.
Verizon purchased AOL in 2015 and closed the deal to acquire Yahoo! last June. The two companies were merged into a subsidiary called Oath, Inc., led by former AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. The reason Verizon purchased these properties is because they are trying to get into the digital advertising business to compete with Facebook and Google, the two big titans in this sector.
While people remember AOL for its IM services and dialup services, the CEO Tim Armstrong had been busy reinventing the company as a digital advertising platform since the company’s other services had been on the decline for a long time. This reinvention made AOL an attractive acquisition for a giant company like Verizon. I believe Yahoo! was acquired for roughly the same reasons.
Verizon, however, is clearly not interested in AOL and Yahoo!’s legacy services, and doesn’t to want to pay the costs required for their upkeep. Last year, after Oath absorbed AOL and Yahoo!, about 2,100 jobs were cut, which was about 15% of Oath’s staff, and I would wager they were the people involved with the managing and upkeep of the legacy services.
While AOL’s ancient dialup service reportedly still makes some money, services such as AIM and YIM don’t bring in anything at all and hardly anyone even uses them anymore. AIM and YIM have long since been replaced by Skype, Discord, WhatsApp, and Snapchat and Verizon is not interested in making the investments needed to revive these services.
Fans of legacy IM services may be amused to know that ICQ is still around. It is currently owned by a Russia’s Mail.ru group, and after Russia recently banned the popular Telegram app, the Russian government has said they will replace it with ICQ.