According to this blog post: AOL kills AIM
Linked to this post: AOL Slashes Staff at AIM Unit; Wider Cuts Expected
Sad to see the decline of a one-time market leader, but I guess they didn't evolve their business model to the changing business environment.
I think I set up my AOL/AIM account in about March 1998, as part of my efforts to become independent of my ISP email account whilst out of the country - the local PTT/Telco (my ISP and email account provider) forced you to use direct dial-up connection or I-Pass to connect to their POP and SMTP servers. They belatedly disabled their SMTP proxy server facility when they realised that people like me were bypassing the artificial constraint and avoiding paying the exhorbitantly expensive connection fees that they had imposed.
They maintained a really greedy and tight marketing control over their customers, which I objected to.
All I wanted was to economically keep in touch via email and voice with family/friends and business contacts whilst working overseas for a few years, so I gathered a bunch of tools - e.g., including AOL, ICQ and SpeakFreely - for that.