SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Saying it will always have “a special place in our hearts,” AOL announced Friday that its once cutting-edge instant messenger app will be taken off-line in December.

Launched in 1997, the app created its own word – “IMed” — as it helped usher in what would become the social media era longed before Twitter or Facebook. It allowed users to send short messages to each other outside of the email environment and was soon used by millions.

“We know there are so many loyal fans who have used AIM for decades; and we loved working and building the first chat app of its kind since 1997,” AOL wrote on the AIM help page.

AOL said its efforts would now be focused on the next generation of lifestyle apps.

“Our focus will always be on providing the kind of innovative experiences consumers want,” the company said in its statement. “We’re more excited than ever to focus on building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products.”

AOL said people can download images they sent over the years until December 15th. However, there is no way to save or port your buddy list over to a new app.

In an email to IM users, the company said it will never forget what the app created.

“From setting the perfect away message to that familiar ring of an incoming chat, AIM will always have a special place in our hearts,” AOL wrote.

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