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AOL later bought out ICQ but kept the ICQ interface intact, even though it competed with AOL’s own IM system.
By the early 2000s, several IM systems were in use on the Internet, with multiple versions for different computer platforms (Windows, Mac OS, Linux).
The first large-scale rollout of IM came from America Online (AOL).
IM had been a part of the AOL browser as early as 1988, in the form of lists of acquaintances that let AOL customers know when their friends, relatives, or other acquaintances who also used AOL were online.
This was truly the forerunner of IM systems, since users could send a message to anyone else on the system and a note would pop up on the user’s terminal.
This software was often used in combination with “Finger,” a program that allowed users to determine whether one user or another was present online at the time.
During the 1970s, the first public chat software emerged.
“Talk,” designed to work within the UNIX operating system, also required that users be logged on to the same computer to use the program.
The software relies on a central server or servers to monitor presence.