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The true turning point, however, occurred in 1997, when AOL launched AIM, attracting a new generation of tech-savvy Internet users.
When you think of AIM, you can probably hear the sounds of opening and closing doors when friends appeared and disappeared on your Buddy List.
In the 1970s, programmers worked on peer-to-peer protocol, allowing universities and research labs to establish simple communication between users of the same computer.
The Zephyr Notification Service, also created at MIT through Project Athena in the 1980s, used Unix to locate and send messages to users.
Like the services before it, AIM allowed users to send messages to each other, and included user profiles, away messages and icons for more engagement.
With AIM also came the development of different bots, such as Study Buddy and Smarter Child (which have since been retired), with whom users could interact. Messenger included customized "IMVironments," address book integration and custom status messages. Pidgin, founded as "Gaim" in 1998 as an open-source instant messaging client, allowed users to reach contacts on several operating systems.
Here's a look at the important advances of instant messaging made over the past 50 years.
The phrase "instant messaging" entered common usage in the early 1990s, but the concept actually dates back to the mid-1960s.
Both i Chat and i Message were replaced earlier this year by OS X Mountain Lion's Messages, allowing users to send unlimited messages to almost any Apple product.
By 2005, AIM dominated the instant messaging market with 53 million users. In 2007, it was estimated that Pidgin had 3 million users. A press release from its launch read, "MSN Messenger Service tells consumers when their friends, family and colleagues are online and enables them to exchange online messages and email with the more than 40 million users of the MSN Hotmail TM Web-based email service as well as with people using AOL Instant Messenger." Microsoft renamed the service Windows Live Messenger in 2005, adding photo sharing capabilities, social network integration and games.
Chat rooms, in which multiple people could IM with each other, were another popular AOL feature. Messenger in 1998, originally under the name Yahoo! In 2009, the company announced more than 330 million active users every month.
In 1982, Commodore International released the Commodore 64 PC.
The Commodore 64 included an Internet service, Quantum Link (also known as Q-Link), which came to be known as America Online (AOL) in the '90s.