Goodbye to AOL Instant Messenger

aol instant messengerTwenty years ago, the Internet changed to become more modern when America Online introduced AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, as it came to be known.

At that time, there was no social media in the modern sense, and the only way to communicate with people on the Internet was by email.

AOL Instant Messenger changed that, by allowing people to have an always-on communications application running on their computer.  You could chat with multiple people at once, and they could see when you were or were not online.

At the time of its introduction, AIM was influential largely because America Online was the largest Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the country.  Back then, everyone had to connect to the Internet via modem and in many small towns, AOL (via a long distance phone call!) was the only way to connect to the Internet at all.

AOL had a very aggressive marketing team, and the company used to send out compact discs with the company’s installation software by the millions, each containing a free trial version of the software.

But it was the Instant Messenger app (which wasn’t called an “app” back then) that allowed people to get their first taste of online social interaction.  While adults used it intermittently, teenagers quickly adopted it and made use of its many (for the time) features.

AIM’s current owner, a company called Oath, was created via the merger of AOL and Yahoo! and Oath has decided to retire the messaging system.

compuservePart of the problem has to do with the fact that AIM was always a desktop application, and it never wavered from that.  There were not versions of the software developed for tablets or smartphones, and as people gravitated away from the desktop PC to those types of devices, they left AIM behind.

The surprise isn’t that AIM is going away; 20 years, after all, is a long time for any application in this fast-paced world to live.  What’s surprising is that there were still a million or so people who continued to use it.

Among the people who used the software over the years were Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, as well as the founders of Twitter.  Some of the features of AIM have now been incorporated into those platforms.

While the demise of AOL Instant Messenger has been receiving a lot of press, a less publicized loss is that the same company is also shutting down the Compuserve Forums this week.  Compuserve was another of the early entries among companies designed to help people connect to the Internet but over time, usage of the service dwindled to almost nothing.

There’s no shortage of forums online today where people can share ideas, but Compuserve was one of the first and there are a few diehard fans who will certainly miss it.

Tastes and technologies change, and when that happens, people change how they use things and the devices they use them on.  If the software fails to keep up, it eventually goes away.

AIM was fun.  It will be missed.


New Weinstein Film Grosses a Whopping $742 in Theaters

amityville: the awakeningOctober hasn’t been a good month for the Weinstein Company.  The big story, of course, were the allegations against co-founder Harvey Weinstein about sexual impropriety with dozens of women.  While these stories have been dominating the news, the company has ostensibly been continuing to produce motion pictures.

The first film to be released post-scandal was Amityville: The Awakening, a thriller starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bella Thorne.  This was the tenth film in the “Amityville” series, which began in 1979 with The Amityville Horror, starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder.

Amityville: The Awakening was going to be a reboot, a meta-film, and a found-footage (a la The Blair Witch Project) film all at once.  While the tenth film in the series, it was going to more or less ignore everything that had gone on in the nine previous films and just start over.

Such reboots are becoming quite common among franchises that have had lots of sequels, as they tend to clean up issues of franchise canon and continuity.  The film was first announced in 2011 with the intention of being released in January, 2012.

As things sometime go in Hollywood, Amityville: The Awakening was stuck in development hell and wasn’t even filmed until 2014.  At that point, it was going to be released in early 2015, but in late 2014, the studio removed the film from their upcoming release schedule.

bella thorne
Actress Bella Thorne

The following year, the studio announced an April, 2016 release date and then further problems popped up when the film was shown to test audiences that apparently hated it.  Following the usual tweaks, the release of Amityville: The Awakening was scheduled for several different dates in 2017.

Finally, a release date was set for October 28, 2017.  In the meantime, the film was released for free on Google Play, where it was available for several weeks for anyone who wanted to see it.

At last, the film opened in the United States in a total of ten theaters with zero money spent to promote it.  In all likelihood, the film was released to theaters only because somebody involved in the project had a contract stipulating that the film would see theatrical release.

The total gross for the weekend in those 10 theaters was $742, an average of $74 per theater.  If you consider four screenings per day over the three days of the weekend, that means that the film would have been shown 120 times, and for that, they received an average of about $6 per showing, suggesting that no more than one person was in the theater at any given time.

Not a good showing.

What a lot of stories about Amityville: The Awakening are not saying, however, is that the film did open in the Philippines and in Ukraine earlier this year and in those showings, grossed the better part of a million dollars.

That’s not a lot of money, and it certainly won’t recoup the cost of production, but it’s a lot more than the seven hundred dollars the film grossed in the United States.

The film will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD in November 2017.