80s and 90s kids, or anyone who was over the age of 13 in the year 2006 or so, hold on to your hats, because I have some potentially mind-blowing news for you. “You’ve got mail!” And your Buddy List from yesteryear may very well still exist. AOL Mail and AIM Chat are alive and well, but with a completely new concept that puts it on the same level as today’s most popular online and mobile platforms, like Gmail and Yahoo.
Now, maybe it’s just me because I live under a rock, but I had resigned myself to the fact that the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) from my teenage years had died and vanished into the cyber ether. But, it turns out that AOL still exists, along with AOL Mail and AIM chat. Fortunately, we have all moved past the days of using AOL to connect to the internet via dialup (for those of you who remember what that was).
New AOL Mail portal
The new AOL Mail is part of an entire online portal, much like the Yahoo! portal. As a matter of fact, it is now owned by the same company as Yahoo, along with Verizon Wireless and several other brands. If you are a Yahoo user or at least familiar with their homepage and services, aol.com is very similar these days. Here’s a snap of a portion of the new portal as it appeared today:
As you can see, there are some icons in the left toolbar which serve as shortcuts to the most important tools and services, including AOL Mail, Search, Sign In or Register, News, etc. At the top of the page, there is a search bar that allows you to search the internet using AOL’s search engine.
There is also a page called “AOL MyBenefits” which shows you different features and services available to you through your AOL account. The benefits you see here when you are signed in to your account may vary depending on if you have a paid plan or not.
Finally, there is a “Discover AOL” section, which displays all the products and services offered. You can filter by the type of product or service, including the ability to only display free options.
Features of the new AIM and AOL Mail
Today’s incarnation of AOL Mail and AIM are comparable to any other modern email and chat services. AOL has integrated AIM chat into its mail interface, so you can easily send instant messages right from your email and keep everything organized in one place.
There are also mobile apps for AOL Mail and AIM, which allows you to stay in touch with everyone without having to pay for text messages. If you use Wi-Fi instead of your mobile data plan, the messages you send through the AIM mobile app are almost always free.
Sign in for AOL Mail and AIM
If you already have an AOL account, you can sign into it by simply going to aim.com. Alternatively, you can go to the aol.com home page and try to access your AOL Mail there, which will redirect you to a sign in page if you aren’t already logged in. We’ll go over the process of how to log in and out of your AOL EMail or AIM account in detail in a separate tutorial.
Creating a new AOL Mail or AIM account
If you don’t have an AOL email yet, creating a new AOL Mail or AIM account (they function the same way, so if you create one, it does double duty) is very easy. If you go to the same web address indicated in the last section, aim.com, you’ll see that at the bottom of the sign in form there is a link that says “Get an AIM account”.
Another alternative, just like with login options, is to try to access AOL Mail from the aol.com homepage. The sign in form that you will be taken to will have a link that says “Get a Free Username”.
In both cases, you’ll be taken to a registration form that looks something like the image below. If you need a little extra help with the sign up process, we’ll walk through it step by step in another tutorial.
One important note about the new AOL Mail: If you create an email account with AOL, it has an expiration date. Meaning, if you don’t use your account for 90 days, it could be deactivated. Furthermore, if your account is inactive for 180 days, your entire account and everything attached to it could be deleted. That includes shared media, messages, everything associated with your AOL Mail screenname or email address.
Recovering an old AIM screenname for the new AOL Mail
Now, before you go creating a new AIM account, it might be interesting to take a moment and mentally stroll down memory lane. Did you use AOL Mail or AIM instant messenger in the past? Most of us in the United States who are of a certain age did. And I suspect that most of us assumed that our old screennames died along with AIM, purged from some remote server, never to be seen again.
Well, it turns out that this isn’t necessarily true. If you have the proverbial memory of an elephant, as I apparently do (or else very poor password security practices), you might be able to recover your AIM username from ancient history. It’s worth a try, if you’re interested in the cyber archeological dig site of your life from before smartphones were a thing.
I will admit, I fully expected this to not work, especially after learning that new AOL Mail accounts are automatically deleted after 180 days of inactivity. But in the interest of science, and despite having closer to 3,300 days of inactivity on AIM, I gave it a try.
The information was still valid, so I clicked on “Looks good!” (And yes, that is the dorky chat icon I chose as a teenager. Don’t judge.)
It then took me to a screen where I had the option to import contacts from Google Chat. I opted to skip this step by clicking on “Next” without clicking on “Connect to add Google Chat”.
Finally, the new AIM gave me a quick snapshot of the new interface, which has, of course, been updated to fit in better with the expectations of today’s internet users. In my eagerness, I skimmed over this a bit too quickly to really take it all in, but we’ll talk about everything in depth in a future article.
And then, lo and behold, I was in the new AIM. The new AIM, but with my old buddy list, still labeled “My Buds”, the name I gave it because I didn’t have any reason to narrow it down by groups. Unsurprisingly, all my buddies from 2007 and prior were offline.
This happened to work for me; your mileage may vary. I can’t promise that your decade-old AIM account is still preserved in some dusty corner of an AOL server, even if you can remember the password. But even if it doesn’t work for you, it is a fun experiment. If all your recovery efforts are in vain, you can simply create a new account on AOL Mail and use it for AIM.
That’s it for our very general introduction to the new AOL Mail and AIM chat. We will go into more detail about the most important features of this platform in future posts. Make sure you check out our next tutorial on how to create a new AOL Mail account if you don’t have one already!