The door just closed on AOL Instant Messenger, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen could say he saw it coming for the feature that was a prototype of social media apps today.
AOL announced in a blog post Friday that the instant messaging service is shutting down, and its little "yellow running man" icon "is ready to retire."
The instant messenger will completely go offline Dec. 15, 2017.
As Mashable reported, AIM, despite its rise, could never keep up with the times, despite the success it saw, practically defining a generation.
The messenger's rise and fall made it an example of what Christensen called the "innovator's dilemma," according to Mashable.
"The concept is simple — companies concerned with its current products, profits and customers often fail to recognize and adapt to change even from within," Mashable reported.
As Christensen outlines in his book, companies with outstanding success sometimes fall apart or disappear because they're unable to manage growth or monetize ongoing innovation. These companies fail to "value new innovations properly," according to Wired, which leads to lesser return on investment. Companies then invest less into those innovative products, and they slowly break down.
This applies to AIM. While AOL drew revenue based on subscriptions, AIM was a free service, so the two never mixed. The company ran AOL promotions on AIM, but "never sold a dollar of ad space," according to Mashable.
Barry Appelman, who worked with AIM, told Mashable that AIM was useless to AOL because it didn't make money.
"AIM was never really embraced by AOL because of the innovator's dilemma, what I call the cash cow dilemma," Appelman said.
In the case of AIM, the company AOL developed a product that "was right in line with the times, just at a company hanging on to a business model that would soon become obsolete," Mashable reported.
AOL never allowed its workers to develop new features for the service and slowly it began to fall behind and now will retire.
AIM's growth defined a generation. Screen names, away messages and profiles were the prototypes to Facebook statuses, timelines and Twitter handles.
"If you were a 90's kid, chances are there was a point in time when AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was a huge part of your life," AIM's retirement blog post red. "You likely remember the CD, your first screenname, your carefully curated away messages, and how you organized your buddy lists. Right now you might be reminiscing about how you had to compete for time on the home computer in order to chat with friends outside of school."
Indeed, communication is much different than how it was during AIM's heyday. Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Kik, Line and Google Hangouts are all in the mix as top messaging apps in 2017.
Twitter and Instagram are also messaging apps with their direct message features.
Even today, this can be seen. People across the globe shared their memories with the instant messaging service through the hashtag #AIMemories.
Appelman said AOL would do things differently if it knew how AIM would collapse and how quickly social networks and messaging services would rise.
"If AOL had 20/20 hindsight, maybe the story would have had a different ending," Appelman said. "They couldn't make that leap where they turned the business upside down ... Companies generally don't do that trick."