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When we think about the spectacular collapses of once untouchable Internet properties, companies like My Space and come to mind.

Harris had been a programmer at a small web browser company purchased by AOL.

But together with a group of other engineers they helped take AIM from inception to dominance, then watched it fall into dormancy, unable to convince AOL management that free was the future.

At first, AOL users who logged on were not greeted with a list of fellow friends online.

But AOL did have a manual way to search for said friends, if you knew their exact screennames.

AOL had become a behemoth in the early days of the consumer Internet.

It handled around 180,000 simultaneous connections. Bosco said the goals for AOL's messenger were set much higher: 5 million simultaneous users.

Sitting with them and talking about the program, they exude pride for what they built and how it impacted the Internet. " During our conversation, the term "innovator's dilemma" is thrown around a few times.

Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen coined the term, which is the title of his renowned book. The app, which Facebook bought for billion, is essentially what they worked on in the mid 90s — messaging over the Internet.

Appelman joined after his time at IBM, where he worked on some of the first standards to connect computers over the Internet (through what are known as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol or TCP/IP).

Before building a messaging program for the Internet, he created something else that would eventually spawn AIM.

This function became so overrun with requests that its servers often crashed.

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