Where have all my AOL buddies gone?

Lesli Fairchild

After 20 years, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is shutting down on 15 December.

For readers of a certain age, this may trigger nostalgia for bygone days spent messaging friends via modems on clunky home PCs.

Professional users, however, may be worrying whether the exodus of buddies from AIM to other platforms ahead of the shutdown will result in the loss of valuable business connections.

Their concern is valid.

Last year, Yahoo made changes that compelled commodities and energy users to exit their platform and find alternative venues for business. The good news was that almost all found a new platform. The bad news was that many chose different platforms – most of which were “island” technologies that only allowed chats with other users on that platform. The result? A fragmented community, with many users compelled to sign into numerous systems to be able to stay connected with their old Yahoo counterparts.

In the same way that the City has thrived because it is a tightly knit financial services hub, collaboration tools can create virtual hubs where communities share ideas in real time to discover new insights that help them do their jobs.

Of course size matters, but what is key is being able to make connections with the right people, so it’s also important to be able to find contacts and collaborate across different platforms. For example CME Pivot, which has a strong user base in the commodities space, also enables connections with other networks, including our own.

So what advice can we share with AIM users to ensure they can stay connected to the professional contacts they have accumulated over the past 20 years?

First, seize the opportunity to turn from consumer to professional collaboration tools that support your workflows and are relevant to your industry and enterprise.

Second, given financial services is a heavily regulated sector, choose a platform that empowers compliance and provides all of the necessary protections to keep you safe while chatting. And last – but not least – tell your contacts where you are headed so that they can stay connected with you, whichever platform you choose.

Ultimately the best options are the platforms that are designed with an open philosophy towards integration with other networks to break down barriers to information sharing across the industry. And the platform providers’ role is to ensure we make it as easy possible.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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