You kids today may be too young to remember a time when America Online's free AOL Instant Messenger program ruled the instant message universe. In the mid-1990s and the early part of the 2000s before Facebook, Google Talk, and, hell, even MySpace, AIM was the way that my friends and I kept in touch after school and away at college. I spent many evenings chatting away with pals while browsing the Internet via a 56K dial-up connection. AIM became so ubiquitous that the developers over at AOL worked to bring the messaging app to as many platforms as possible including, of all things, the Sony PlayStation 2. Mashable has a fascinating article looking back at the history of AIM, how AOL never really wanted it, and how it nearly wound up on a popular video game console.
But with AIM bringing essentially zero revenue and costing money to operate, AOL did little to encourage the exploration of the features and outright blocked others. Numerous ideas never made it past the development phase. The engineers explored ways to broaden AIM's user base, creating versions for set-top boxes and PlayStation 2 that were never released. AOL squashed those, Appelman said.
I can't imagine how useful AIM on a PS2 would have been. It's not like AIM could have run alongside a game like today's modern game console operating systems, so you'd have to launch the app from the PS2's main menu and then leave it running as the only program in memory. The great thing about AIM (and instant messaging in general) was its passive nature; users could do other things on their computer while waiting for a reply. Who wants to sit in front of the TV waiting for replies? If AIM were still a popular platform, I could see demand to integrate it into the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but that's what Facebook and Twitter integration are for now (like it or not). Time marches on and the players change, but the need to reach out and communicate remains the same. I wonder which services will be plugged into the next PlayStation and the next Xbox. Maybe ICQ will make a comeback!