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AOL had become a behemoth in the early days of the consumer Internet.
Under the leadership of Tim Armstrong it now focuses on video and its ad network.Due to the way its system was constructed, AOL knew not just that people were logged on but which users they were.This allowed for the construction of a location tool that proved extremely popular.In another life, before a disastrous acquisition of Time Warner, it brought the Internet into the homes of Americans and controlled the program that popularized online messaging without ever really meaning to.It would be easier to call AIM ahead of its time if it had not become so wildly popular almost immediately after its launch."Buddy list was done without telling anybody, because we didn't have any product management then. People could suddenly spend as long as they liked online.
AOL’s infrastructure had trouble handling the transition.Millions of subscribers paid AOL monthly for the ability to sign online. The "You've got mail" notification became the sound Americans associated with their first email accounts, as well as a movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.Barry Appelman, Eric Bosco and Jerry Harris worked at AOL in the 1990s and early 2000s as engineers on AOL Instant Messenger, known commonly as AIM. Appelman and Bosco programmed in the Unix operating system.Once the dominant force in digital messaging and a source of innovations other companies spun off into billions of dollars of businesses, AIM is now mostly dormant.Mashable sat down with three of the early engineers of the program to learn about its origins, why AOL never quite embraced the concept of a free messaging service, getting hacked by Microsoft and the features that never quite made it to users. It had risen above competitors in Prodigy and Compu Serve to become the dominant Internet service provider for American households.When we think about the spectacular collapses of once untouchable Internet properties, companies like My Space and come to mind.