Two months ago, Oath (formerly AOL) shocked loyal users of its AOL Instant Messenger service by announcing the long-running chat service would be shutting down. As of Friday, those loyal users have just two weeks left to say goodbye to the chat app.
Dec. 15 is the last day AIM will work—and if you’ve been in denial about its impending doom, it’s time to start looking for an alternative. AIM might be a go-to communication channel for some, but it won’t automatically transfer all of your contacts to another service.
Specifically, AOL says there’s no way to save or port your buddy list, meaning you’ll have to reach out manually to everyone on it and let them know where to find you on Dec. 16.
Even worse: The username you’ve held onto for so many years may not be available on another service, meaning friends and acquaintances may not know how to find you even if you both end up on the same one.
Moving to another instant messaging service does have some risks, since so many are shutting down lately. But you’re not without options. Facebook and Slack are the biggest alternatives for many workers, but Facebook can be too intimate a relationship for some people on your AIM buddy list and Slack can be a walled community some contacts can’t access.
Google Hangouts, which lets you connect with people on your contacts list, can also be another option. And third party services like Adium, Trillian, and Pidgin replicate that popup window functionality that AIM users loved so much.
Skype is becoming a popular alternative as well, letting users both send instant messages and make free calls. Other possibilities include WhatsApp and Instabird.
Of course, if you really want to go old school, ICQ is still an option. The original instant messaging service, which most people forgot about when AIM came on the scene, is still up and running. It’s worth noting, however, that Oath owns ICQ too, so its future is anything but certain.