Are you one of the AOL Instant Messenger remaining fans? The company, part of Verizon's content acquisition strategy, announced today that the platform will disappear as of December 15. Come that day, you will no longer have access and your data will go poof. If you use an email address, that will continue to work.

At least AOL is beyond firing employees during a conference call, as Verizon has technical savvy and far more management experience. But the cold-eyed realism is clearly taking its toll. AOL Instant Messenger is likely no longer worth dealing with for the telecom giant. The software wasn't long for the world since before the acquisition, when AOL cut all the Messenger development team.

However, what may not make sense for the vendor might still be important to users. IM offers an effective way to quickly communicate important bits of information without asking people to move way from whatever screen they're using. Choosing a different option for you and letting your contacts know what you'll be using is a great idea. But this will be trickier than it sounds. Here's what to do.

1. Contacts

Unfortunately, AOL says you can't export your contact list, otherwise known as the buddy list. That isn't surprising because the entire system is going away.

You'll need to open each contact, copy the name, and see whether you have an email, Twitter handle, or some other way of reaching them.

2. Images and files

AOL provides directions that will be ridiculously difficult to implement as there seems to be no central repository for either images or files that you or someone else has shared and they aren't shared with chat logs. Here's what you do:

  1. Sign into the AIM client.
  2. Open a chat with each contact and look through the chat history.
  3. Click each file or image you come across that you want to save. It opens in a new browser window or tab.
  4. Right-click and choose the save option. For files, some browsers may automatically download them or prompt you to do so.

3. Chat history

Chat logs are saved by default, although they can be turned off. If you did so generally or for specific contacts, that information won't be available.

If you did log the chats and want a copy, go into whatever version of the AIM client you used or go to and log in. Chose the Open Chat Log option and save away.

If you think you may not for whatever reason, be sure you have the AIM 8 client installed and you'll be able to view your saved chats after December 15. As the steps differ for Windows and Mac users, go to this AIM help page, scrolled down to the "Can I view and save my chat history?" topic, click the plus sign next to it, and then scroll down and follow the appropriate directions.

4. Get a replacement

There are a number of services that support instant messaging across multiple platforms. Here's a roundup of some choices.

  • Skype: Often associated with cheap voice and video calls, there's also the option for IM.
  • Slack: The popular collaboration and communication software has group chatting, but you can also open direct conversations with individuals.
  • Semaphor: This service from SpiderOak, which offers secured cloud storage to which even they don't have a key, is a secure choice when you want private communications.
  • Google Hangouts: Like Skype, it enables video and audio calls, and it also permits instant messaging.