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What Happened To ICQ ?

Back in the days when there was only IRC and a few chat rooms as your only means to connect to people, there came ICQ, the first internet-wide instant messenger. The name ICQ is a homophone for the phrase I seek you. It quickly captured the imagination of the early netizens and gathered millions of users worldwide, with people showing off their ICQ numbers even on their visiting cards. Yes ICQ had numbers for usernames and the initial six digit ones were most coveted. The universal internet numbers (UIN) were handed out sequentially. Some of the attractive ones were even sold in the free market. The messenger was distinctly unique with some silly features like typewriter noises and online/offline status being indicated by the color of a flower. In fact, it looked like the messenger was designed by a bunch of hippies.

Soon with the advent of MSN and Yahoo! messengers, people quickly switched to the jazzier options. Besides, ICQ by then was plagued by the scourge of spam.

The messenger was first launched in November 1996. America Online (AOL) acquired Mirabilis, its holding company, on June 8, 1998 for $407 million. Today, the ICQ protocol can be accessed from any AIM enabled messenger. ICQ still claims to have 32 million active users, but the claim is doubtful. In India at least, its popularity has perceptibly declined. Abroad there might be people logging in, but through other messenger clients and so it appears that the days of the highly vocal, slim ICQ messenger are numbered.