Goodbye ICQ

August 18th 1997 – I signed up to a service not even knowing what it did at the time. That service was known as ICQ. Little did anyone know that the four young Israeli lads, who developed this incredible piece of software in 1996, would change the Internet forever. They had formed Mirabilis and they began work on a simple idea they’d been thinking of for a long time.

ICQ Version 5 2003 by ICQ, Inc

Instant Messaging took off in a colossal way from then onwards and ICQ found it’s way onto every home personal computer connected to the Internet. The uptake on this tiny but ultra useful application was incredible. Everyone was exchanging ICQ numbers on gaming servers, on IRC, around street corners, the list goes on.

Eventually I stopped using the official ICQ client back in 2000. The main client was getting more and more useless features built into it and its responsiveness was getting worse. AOL acquired Mirabilis on June 1998 and users including myself began to see a change in their beloved program. Adverts had begun to appear in the bottom half of their ICQ window and an instant dislike to the client was the result of many users.

Some users moved over to the fast emerging ‘Multi Instant Messaging’ clients such as Trillian, GAIM or the fantastic Miranda – which is my preferred client…until now. Back to that in a minute anyway.

So ICQ was getting bloated and cumbersome. ICQ ‘Lite’ was eventually launched with no ads, and no extra features – just plain messaging, yay! Users breathed a sigh of relief and cheered! As newer versions of ‘Lite’ appeared, so did ads and more useless features, which resulted in people also giving that up. It was then that I heard of Miranda. This Instant Messenger (IM) was incredible! Taking up less then 1mb on one’s hard disk and using 2mb of Ram it was like the ICQ client’s of the early days. I’ve used Miranda for years now, to access both the MSN & ICQ networks with more reliability then the official MSN/ICQ clients! Miranda being ultra flexible running off lovely plugins means that you can set it up how you want it and not the other way around! :)

Customised Miranda running alongside Windows Live Messenger Beta

However, since December 2005 I’ve noticed a trend that saddened me. Less and less ICQ users were coming online on ICQ, mainly due to the fact that since it’s release Microsoft had bundled MSN Messenger into the Windows XP Operating System instantly bypassing all the popular IM’s and almost forcing people to use it, and millions of people did. At the time MSN offered users live webcam video use as well as voice contact in addition to bog standard instant messaging. Thanks to MSN, Instant Messaging was moving up a gear while ICQ remained stagnant with it’s dated client.

I myself refused to leave to dreaded MSN. The client was huge and packed with useless options I’d never require. All I wanted was messaging and Miranda did that superbly in much better style, and yet MSN still didn’t support offline messaging which ICQ has done from the start.

January 2006 saw the Windows Live Messenger beta arrive. MSN is soon to be dead, and replaced with a new name of Live Messenger for those who don’t yet know. I’m on it right this moment and guess what? It supports Offline Messaging! Given that I have just 2 contacts that appear on ICQ, I see no reason to stick to using ICQ anymore as most of my friends have migrated to MSN long ago.

January 14th 2006 saw me finally stop using beloved my Miranda client for MSN/ICQ access and switching fully to MSN via Windows Live Messenger. The client in its current state is rather large but very functional and looks quite promising.

So, to cut a long story short. I’ve said bye to ICQ and my ICQ Number 16147227 and I now feel very sad as I write this. I sent out a message to the remaining users on my ICQ list that I had moved to MSN, with contact details. I’ve met and made so many friends thanks to ICQ over the years that I’ll miss it so much. One half of me does not want to move to MSN but I’ve little choice but to go with the masses.

Despite taking up half the desktop, Windows Live Messenger is the way forward for me, but ICQ will always remain a fond memory. *sniffles*