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AIM Phoenix: Revival of the Once-Popular Messaging Service or Digital Zombie?

The death of AOL Instant Messenger was one of those large scale internet mourning events marking a passage of an era. Six months later, a small team of developers intends to find out if the service was shut down prematurely.

AIM Phoenix is a new chat service that looks and feels just like AIM, because it uses the same software as the original. But if you’re hoping to see your old buddy list when you log in, brace yourself for disappointment.

Verizon, which owns AOL (and, thus AIM), isn’t associated with this group. And that company held all of the AIM data, including usernames and buddy lists. AIM Phoenix operates on a private server, so users will have to re-register and convince friends to download the software and do so as well. That’s going to be an uphill battle as even AIM power users have had six months to get used to alternatives.

Also, given the recent surge of interest in online privacy, users could be wary about exchanging messages with friends on a private server run by hobbyists.

AOL shut down the original AIM, citing a “cultural shift” in online communication. It wasn’t alone either. Yahoo (also a Verizon holding) has since announced plans to shut down Yahoo Messenger on July 17. MSN shut down its messenger service in 2014.

Corporate users today tend to use Slack, while Skype is another popular alternative, letting users both send instant messages and make free calls as well.

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 Verizon’s Oath owns ICQ too, so its future is anything but certain.