But if AIM was to be a standalone program, it needed to run off some equipment.
"AIM was sort of the prototypical skunkworks project," Bosco said.
"They didn't have any central presence information," Appelman said.
"They didn't know anything about [the users]." Not so for AOL.
In many ways, AIM was right in line with the times, just at a company hanging on to a business model that would soon become obsolete.
The seeds of AIM began within AOL and the mind of Barry Appelman.
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.
Appelman reasoned that instead of having to ask, the program might as well tell you if your friends were online.Patent US 6750881 B1 "User definable on-line co-user lists" was born, a.k.a, the buddy list. You didn't have to check whether somebody was on, but it told you," Appelman said.Far from a giant development product, Appelman discussed it with only his close colleagues, as AOL did not have a great amount of oversight at the time. Two months later, AOL would switch from an hourly rate to a flat fee.Sitting with them and talking about the program, they exude pride for what they built and how it impacted the Internet. " During our conversation, the term "innovator's dilemma" is thrown around a few times.Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen coined the term, which is the title of his renowned book. The app, which Facebook bought for billion, is essentially what they worked on in the mid 90s — messaging over the Internet.At first, AOL users who logged on were not greeted with a list of fellow friends online.But AOL did have a manual way to search for said friends, if you knew their exact screennames.When we think about the spectacular collapses of once untouchable Internet properties, companies like My Space and come to mind.The rise and fall of AOL Instant Messenger rivals them all.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.