Talk of AOL Instant Messenger’s death has been greatly exaggerated, the company says, claiming it has no plans to shut down the AIM service. Although reports circulated yesterday suggesting AIM had been axed, the company insists to Computerworld that “we are not killing Instant Messenger” and that instead “we’ll continue to support it and evolve the product.” That evolution will go on without a chunk of AIM team staff, however, including its chief.
Insiders say Jason Shellen, who until now has been VP of Product on the AIM team, is leaving AOL. Shellen’s LinkedIn profile is yet to be updated to confirm that, however, and it’s unclear whether the decision was his or made by the company. Meanwhile, AOL has supposedly laid off around 40 employees from the team.
At one point, AIM dominated the US instant messaging market, but as subscribers to the company’s internet service drifted away to alternate ISPs its market share fell. The last stable release of AIM was in March 2011, though a preview beta was pushed out in December, and as of a June 2011 report [pdf link] held just 0.73-percent of the market share for people with the app installed (though not necessarily in active use).
Exactly how AOL intends to “evolve” AIM remains to be seen, then, and scything away at the developer team responsible for the product doesn’t exactly indicate confidence for the long-term.