Milestones: A look back at AOL's 35 year history as an internet pioneer


From the trailblazing product that was Instant Messenger, merger with Time Warner and multiple rebrandings, AOL has faced a long road as it continues to navigate the ever-evolving world of the internet.

In honor of AOL's 35th birthday on May 24, we're taking a look back at some of the company's definitive moments, like history-breaking mergers and record-breaking numbers, and how it shaped the future of internet culture.

1983: Recent college graduate Steve Case is hired at Control Video, an online gaming system that connected an Atari 2600 to customers' phone lines.

1985: Case formally launches Quantum Computer Services from the "ashes" of Control Video, starting the company that would become AOL.

1989: Quantum Computer Services is renamed America Online. Voice actor Elwood Edwards is hired to record its now-iconic greeting "You've Got Mail" on a cassette tape in his living room, which is still used three decades later.

1993: America Online introduces its first email addresses.

1995: Company reaches one million users.

1996: America Online ditches its original pay-per-hour pay system in favor of a flat, $19.95 monthly fee, effectively beginning the modern internet era.

1997: AIM, one of the company's most iconic products, is established secretly by developers without the company's knowledge. The product quickly went on to become one of the "ancient forebearers of messaging technology," Tech Crunch editor Josh Costine argued.

Stephen Case, chairman and chief executive officer of American Online, addresses the audience in the plenary at the World Economic Forum's 30th annual meeting (Reuters)

1999: America Online has over 18 million subscribers and is now the biggest internet provider in the country, with higher-than-expected earnings. It acquires MapQuest for $1.1 billion in December.

2000: America Online merges with Time Warner. While the "marriage" didn't last, it was biggest corporate merger in history at the time.

2006: America Online drops its old name to officially become AOL and no longer charges for email services. The company moves its headquarters from Dulles, Va. to Manhattan.

2009: Tim Armstrong joins as CEO and becomes responsible for much of the rebranding and growth.

2010: Time Warner cut ties with AOL.

America Online CEO Stephen M. Case, left, and Time Warner CEO Gerald M. Levin listen to senators' opening statements during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the merger of the two companies. (Getty Images)

2011: AOL acquires The Huffington Post and Armstrong begins investing significantly in ad platforms.

2012: AOL partners to launch MAKERS, which develops into an award-winning brand focused on female empowerment and telling the stories of inspiring leaders.

2015: Verizon acquires AOL and its full set of brands, the first notable media acquisition that lays the groundwork for what would become known as the Verizon Media Group.

2016: Verizon acquires Yahoo, further expanding its media offerings.

2017: AOL officially shutters its Instant Messenger platform after a 20-year run. It also announces the inception of Oath, Verizon's new digital umbrella, bringing AOL, Yahoo, HuffPost, Engadget, TechCrunch, MAKERS and more together. AOL also launches "In the Know," bringing a new generation of users the latest in food, entertainment, news, travel and lifestyle.

CEO of Verizon Media Guru Gowrappan speaks onstage during The 2020 MAKERS Conference at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown in February 2020.

2018: Guru Gowrappan becomes the CEO of Oath and oversees the transition of Oath to the Verizon Media Group.

Today: With 35 years under its belt, AOL continues to serve millions of users each day, keeping them connected with email and up to date with news and more.

Originally published