After 40 people were given pink slips on Friday by the former online giant, AOL layoffs are expected to grow to more than 100 by the end of this month. The layoffs have affected a range of departments, though so far they’ve been most heavily targeted at the AOL Instant Messenger team. An anonymous employee reported to the New York Times that the team has been “eviscerated and now only consists of support staff.”
The NYT cited sources familiar with the matter when putting AIM’s current revenue at $50 million per year. Cutting the staff down to only support signals the inevitable demise of the once-beloved messenger. NYT’s source said that currently it costs AOL around $25 million to run the service, and pointed out that the move was made to maximize the remaining revenue left in the service by cutting support costs down to only $2 or $3 million every year.
AOL Instant Messenger has been on its way out since the introduction of video chat capabilities and fancier UIs like those found in Skype and iChat. Once Facebook and Google got into the instant messenger game by integrating the feature into their established services it seemed there was no hope left for the original instant messenger. In 2007 the service had nearly 33 million active users, but by 2010 that number had already been cut in half.
Though AIM has fallen by the wayside over the years, the news is still saddening to anyone who used the service for any extended period of time. I’ll personally never forget the time spent chatting on AIM with middle school classmates, the amount of crushes and gossip divulged over the service every night. This was long before I ever had a cell phone of my own, or sense enough not to tell every girl who gave me a moment of their time that I liked them.
I was once stopped a year ago in the airport as I typed an urgent email to a friend on my laptop. A woman interrupted me from a few seats away and asked how I learned to type so fast. I paused and thought about it for a moment, and immediately passed over every memory of school-taught typing courses I’d had as irrelevant. “AOL Instant Messenger,” I told her. “Definitely.”