Millions of subscribers paid AOL monthly for the ability to sign online. The "You've got mail" notification became the sound Americans associated with their first email accounts, as well as a movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Barry Appelman, Eric Bosco and Jerry Harris worked at AOL in the 1990s and early 2000s as engineers on AOL Instant Messenger, known commonly as AIM. Appelman and Bosco programmed in the Unix operating system.
Harris had been a programmer at a small web browser company purchased by AOL.
But together with a group of other engineers they helped take AIM from inception to dominance, then watched it fall into dormancy, unable to convince AOL management that free was the future.
Once the dominant force in digital messaging and a source of innovations other companies spun off into billions of dollars of businesses, AIM is now mostly dormant.
Mashable sat down with three of the early engineers of the program to learn about its origins, why AOL never quite embraced the concept of a free messaging service, getting hacked by Microsoft and the features that never quite made it to users. It had risen above competitors in Prodigy and Compu Serve to become the dominant Internet service provider for American households.
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