The Internet giant has begun informing users that its AOL Newsgroup interface will be discontinued as early as February, according to a notice posted on the site. AOL users will still be able to access newsgroups through Google Groups or by using a third party reader such as Mozilla's Thunderbird, the notice adds.
AOL's decision to scrap newsgroup support comes as other forms of online community have taken favor, according to company spokeswoman Jaymelina Esmele.
"We are seeing that traffic on newsgroups is pretty minimal at this point," she said. "With features like message boards, chat rooms and AOL Blogs, the majority of our members are turning to these to engage in topics of interest to them."
The newsgroup shutdown was first reported on Spam Kings, the Web log of writer Brian McWilliams.
AOL's newsgroups have led to some trouble for the Internet provider. Earlier this year, AOL settled a lawsuit with writer Harlan Ellison, who sued the company for copyright infringement. Ellison claimed AOL violated copyright laws because his works appeared on newsgroups available through the service.
Usenet newsgroups were once a primary destination for Internet users to chat about interests and issues with people around the world. During the early days of the Internet before the Web took off, AOL and other ISPs viewed newsgroup access as a feature to appeal to new customers and retain existing ones.
But the birth of the Web created new forms of online community that offered more splash than the text-based newsgroup. Web publishing in the form of blogs and personal home pages and other forms of online chat rooms have become a more popular way for people to interact.