The year was 1997 and AOL was the clear leader in Internet Access with it's America OnLine dial up internet service. I used it and most other people that I knew used it as well. NetZero was still a year away when AOL release AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) for Windows as a stand alone version (It was included in AOL Desktop originally but it wasn't until it was released as a stand alone version that it really took off).
Today, December 15th 2017, is the last day of AIM and I have to say that I am little sad. Granted I have not used it in over a decade but I used to use it all day, every day.
My username was DSLSales and I used it for work (I worked for a regional ISP in Northern California - Northcoast Internet; where I was the Regional Broadband Director and Member Support Manager) and I used it for personal communication as well (I lived and breathed work then). I think I had another AIM screen name but once I had DSLSales that was the one I always used.
When you would hear the sound of someone getting online, a door opening sound, you would get a little giddy to see who it was. AIM was really our first Social Media and we all used it as often as possible.
There were other chat programs at the time that I sed as well as AIM but the main one, other than AIM, was ICQ. ICQ was how I communicated to my fellow gamers and video game studios, like Activision. The one thing ICQ had over AIM was that you could download sound packs like The Matrix to customize your different sounds events. ICQ was later purchased by AOL but kept separate for a while.
Goodbye AIM, you were most peoples introduction to what would become Social Media and you were an easy way to find friends online.