back to article Venerable ICQ messaging service to end operations in June

Venerable instant messaging service ICQ has announced it will shut down for good in June. A brief statement on the service's website states "ICQ will stop working from June 26" without any explanation, and suggests VK Messenger as an alternative. More on that potential successor after we revisit ICQ's history, which starts in …

  1. petef

    Obligatory XKCD

    1. LessWileyCoyote

      I laughed at "Wall (bathroom)".

      1. m4r35n357 Silver badge

        I smiled at this, then remembered to translate "bathroom" to "toilet", then I laughed ;)

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Wall (Unix) will mystify some.

        1. Bebu Silver badge
          Windows

          Wall (Unix) will mystify some.

          I was truly surprised by the news that ICQ was shutting down. I was under the impression it was history twenty years ago. :)

          I used ICQ for a year or so around the late 1990s after a contact overseas moved to Windows and ICQ from a Unix timesharing system and ytalk. I think I had to get an ICQ client that ran under my workstation Unix (hpux) or Linux - I would guess it would have been Java based.

          UNIX talk, ntalk, ytalk started off, I imagine, as a LAN version of wall. From memory talk used udp transport and I think it was nigh impossible to get it through a NAT box so I suspect protocol layers were also a bit scrambled.

          The one thing I clearly remember from ytalk is that both parties had to (tacitly) agree to some sort of 'clear to send' indicator otherwise with a little lag/latency the cursor was all over the shop. I think we used '/' \n to indicate 'over'/'go ahead'.

          Customary Four Yorkshiremen reference. "Try and tell the young people today that... and they won't believe you"

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Wall (Unix) will mystify some.

            Project Athena added Zephyr to the collection of UNIX IM systems.

            What was the VMS chat application? We used that in a class I took in the early 1990s, on one of those VAXes that were all the rage at US universities in the 80s and 90s. Connected to BITNET and all that.

            There must have been something similar for TSO, yeah?

            1. anotherjonmorgan

              Re: Wall (Unix) will mystify some.

              VMS chat was over PHONE. You could connect to users not just on your local machine/cluster, but across DECnet to another system that enabled the service (eg $ PHONE FOOVAX::USER).

      3. Snowy Silver badge
        Coat

        Oddly no Wall (Facebook) I am lead to believe you can post of other people's walls.

  2. pro-logic

    ICQ has announced it will shut down for good in June

    Uh-oh!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A problem with "standardized" chat protocols is that they completely kill innovation. XMPP and IRC are utterly decrepit by today's standards, and their clients don't even support embedding any sort of media whatsoever, and even if you do use a client that does that, your friends most likely aren't, so there's an awkward social disconnect there. Even the Matrix protocol, while pretending to be Discord, only has barely half the features of the protocol it's attempting to mimic, like they weren't even trying. Discord breaks it's API a lot, and it's annoying, but they also add new features and really make the chatting experience more fulfilling. It's no wonder there's so many independent projects trying to copy Discord's client and API nearly 1:1.

    I'm not saying we shouldn't have an open standard for chatting, but right now, nobody but these corporations seem to give even half a flying flop about actually making a decent, featureful client and API. The best ones right now are the aforementioned Discord clones, like Revolt (which my friends and I are considering moving to).

    1. m4r35n357 Silver badge

      That is a good thing. "Innovation" is just a synonym for enshittification. Computers were useful and fast enough before 2000. Pretty much every "innovation" since then has been to make them harder to use, and lock down resources, for money extraction purposes.

      Oh, that and stupid bling.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I fully expected the signature Register contrarianism, but I do have to say, "no I don't want to share pictures in my chat program" is pretty funny. Sure, let's all go back to communicating with telegrams.

        Also, that's not what enshittification means. It does not mean bloat, it means a platform deliberately sabotaging itself for the express purpose of taking advantage of it's customers. I'm assuming you picked up that word from seeing someone else use it, but for the origin of the term and it's proper definition, see this: https://pluralistic.net/2023/01/21/potemkin-ai/#hey-guys

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          I think the point is that the ability to add images etc doesn't enshittify the program, but the users abuse the ability to make it so... see emoticons for an example

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            .. but the users abuse the ability to make it so... see emoticons for an example

            But emoticons are great! As are gifs and all the other animated garbage that infests Discord. Along with 'alerts' and how to disable those so you're not being constantly bombarded by popups and beeps. Especially as Disco also has 'game integration', which some games don't seem to disallow. And for some reason (probably legal) Disco doesn't allow voice messages to be saved as files.

            But the best thing about emoticons is Disco somehow gets away with charging suckers £9.99 a month for it's 'Nitro' option. Which is probably something people have to be huffing a lot of to pay that.

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              To be fair that's because discord started as a gaming related chat service. The servers I infest tend to be technical and other than in 'offtopic anything goes' channels? threads? whatever they're called, any attachments tend to be a helpful wiring diagram or whathaveyou

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                The servers I infest tend to be technical and other than in 'offtopic anything goes' channels? threads? whatever they're called, any attachments tend to be a helpful wiring diagram or whathaveyou

                Same. Mine are a mix of business and pleasure. Downside is Disco doesn't seem very good for knowledge retrieval or organising data. Great for 'Hey, I'm stuck on X' and getting a quick answer, whether that's how to solve a puzzle in BG3 or BGP4. Plus a lot of servers have a meme channel.. :p

        2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Me too

          `"no I don't want to share pictures in my chat program" is pretty funny.`

          Funny, but true. If the picture is important, probably best not to expose it to the world(*). If the picture is not important, why am I bothering with it? Actually I have done it on occasion, with numpties who wouldn't understand any other way to get a picture. "Just send it to me!" But it always feels a little unclean. And I would never send *my* information that way, only *theirs*.

          (*) Okay, it's encrypted. But I don't recall exchanging keys, so who all actually has the keys?

        3. DS999 Silver badge

          Definition of "enshittification"

          According to the term's originator it means going from being good to your users to abusing your users to serve your business customers, then finally abusing those business customers to claw back all the value to themselves.

          That sort of definition works for a company like Amazon, who has end users and business customers in between, and Google who has the same for stuff like search, but doesn't widely apply.

          To me, it almost always means "more ads". The earliest example of that was Myspace, which allowed itself to become overrun with spam because they were collecting money from those "advertisers". Facebook at the same point where Myspace was when it died, the difference was that Myspace had an alternative that wasn't awful (Facebook) while Facebook really doesn't. Even the classic Amazon enshittification can be seen as caused by ads - all those third party sellers hawking crap are effectively ads you have to be push through to find something of acceptable quality.

          You see it on streaming platforms where they used to have no ads, then they started selling lower priced packages with ads, and will soon progress to the next step of trying to push people off the no ads packages (Netflix says they make a lot more money off the people getting the cheaper version with ads, so what do you think that means for the price of the packages without ads?) Any streamer that does any sort of free or discount preview only does it on the no ads version now, the only exception is Apple but only because they haven't (yet) introduced an Apple TV+ plan with ads.

          1. simonlb Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Definition of "enshittification"

            Amazon's enshittification is well underway:

            • The increases in the cost of Prime over the past couple of years
            • The rollout of adverts into streamed media
            • The staggering amount of generic, cheap and awful Chinese items of highly dubious quality including blatant fakes and borderline lethal electronics
            • The constant hoop jumping you have to do to avoid signing up for a Prime subscription when you are just trying to pay for something

            There's probably a few more but I now only look on Amazon for a view of the prices things and can usually get them cheaper or quicker now from an eBay seller or from somewhere else. I've had an account with Amazon for almost 25 years but due to the above I actively look to spend my money elsewhere if possible.

            1. Patrician

              Re: Definition of "enshittification"

              "from an eBay seller"

              Who will almost certainly be a Chinese outlet selling "cheap and awful Chinese items of highly dubious quality".

            2. ICL1900-G3

              Re: Definition of "enshittification"

              Absolutely so. Ten years ago, I had a Prime account and found it good value. Now I am with you... Ebay/Aliexpress /whatever all the way.

            3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Definition of "enshittification"

              "Chinese items of highly dubious quality including blatant fakes and borderline lethal electronics"

              FTFY.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Meh, I think the chat protocols themselves have hardly changed since IRC was introduced. Okay, media support has been added but that was also possible using DCC.

      What has changed is hosting and transport protocols to handle encryption and most of this is necessary to prevent third parties gaining access not only to what's being said, but more importantly who's talking to whom and this makes interoperability more difficult because of the PKI infrastructure used.

    3. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Hold up there, Poettering. You can hide your name, but not your intentions.

      1. Bebu Silver badge
        Windows

        Hold up there, Poettering.

        systemd-talkd Yes, need that. Remember when things are really bad they can always become worse. ;)

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Hold up there, Poettering.

          Now that he's at Microsoft, maybe we can look forward to AI-enhanced multimedia messaging in the Windows kernel.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Hold up there, Poettering.

            You means it's possible to make Windows Messenger worse?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      their clients don't even support embedding any sort of media whatsoever

      Which is why people still use them. KISS.

  4. Mage Silver badge
    Windows

    Really?

    I thought it was gone years ago. We've used a few since then and now Viber is preferred.

  5. Wokstation

    Trillian

    IRQ is a blast from the past indeed! I remember using an app called Trillian to manage my various IMs. With the Geiger skin.

    These days it's all private mentions on Mastodon or TwitteX for me.

    1. Blogitus Maximus

      Re: Trillian

      This thread feels like it needs interrupting.

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        Re: Trillian

        Where will the vector take us?

        1. Blogitus Maximus

          Re: Trillian

          A conversation to be tabled for later.

    2. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: Trillian

      Hey, Zaphod, come over here!

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Trillian

      Trillian was awesome. Did all the protocols in one client that felt the same regardless of protocol...

      I had a low-6-digit ID on ICQ... at some point I lost the password for it and that was the end of that.

      1. Flightmode

        Re: Trillian

        I used Trillian for a while in an open-plan office landscape where it was more or less encouraged to have your speakers turned on and up so that everyone could hear every sound that all computers made. One of my colleagues liked the new-message warble that Trillian did so much that he'd just send me repeated messages that read "bududududu" just to play the notification sound... Not at all annoying.

      2. J__M__M

        Re: Trillian

        Lower than 193050?

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Trillian

          Hmmmm, I don't think so... maybe a few thousand after you, actually.

    4. Drat

      Re: Trillian

      Wow that brings back memories.

      Trillian was a rare moment of beautiful convergence followed by decades of divergence in all things chat related.

    5. TheFifth

      Re: Trillian

      I also used Trillian and was in their tester group for a while during one of their major rewrites. Used to hang out on their forum and in their IRC channel too. Fun times.

      I see they're still around but have pivoted away from multi-network support to using their own protocol. They had just introduced their own service as an additional network on top of the other providers when I stopped using it. Looks like they're targeting business and healthcare now with HIPAA compliance being a major selling point. https://trillian.im

  6. Piro Silver badge

    Uh oh!

    Fondly remembered.

  7. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Angel

    Amour - Propre

    ...a task made difficult by its reputation for having many criminals as members and for the prospective buyer being Russian firm Digital Sky Technologies. US authorities worried that the sale would make it harder to investigate ICQ users.

    Very proper: anyone who grew up during the Cold War knew those rascally Russkies wanted nothing more than to install a universal monitoring system to gather every scrap of data on every person.

  8. Antony Shepherd

    ICQ was still a thing???

    This is a bit like when a famous person dies and you hadn't been aware they had still been alive.

    I mean, I had an ICQ account many many many years ago, well over two decades, and it's entirely possible the account might still exist except I stopped using it, forgot the number, almost certainly forgot the password, and it was linked to my old Demon email address so even if I'd wanted to I couldn't have used it.

    Totally surprised it had lasted that long.

  9. Gene Cash Silver badge

    28 years...

    Google is lucky if one of their projects manages 28 months.

    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Pidgin. It basically speaks everything in that XKCD comic, with a fairly decent user interface. It's still around, but I no longer know anyone that uses IM any more.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: 28 years...

      Indeed I used Pidgin many years ago for a couple of chat things like Yahoo and AOL, etc, and it worked well. But everyone it seemed moved to FB (a pox on them) and most of those services withered and died.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: 28 years...

        I used it for work, for a while, but then we moved to Rocket.Chat (which was web-based but not entirely terrible) and then Teams (which was, and remains, terrible1).

        At Rocket Software we use Slack, which is OK. I like it better than Teams — it's more customizable (I have it set to convert all emoji to text, which is a great feature), you can use Markdown in the editor, and so on. And while I don't trust Salesforce for a minute, it's nice to not be borged by Microsoft in at least one little corner of work life.

        1When Micro Focus instituted Teams across the board and got rid of the Rocket.Chat instance my division was using, the number of users increased by some multiple — four or five, perhaps — but the total number of messages dropped precipitously. People stayed away in droves. Usage eventually crept up somewhat but it never got close to what it was with Rocket.Chat. Teams is just inherently obnoxious. Automatically converting words in parentheses to idiotic emoji is only one example.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 28 years...

          @Michael Wojcik - does that mean you managed to avoid the shit show that was Fuze at MF ?

  10. PhilipN Silver badge

    "waned with the end of the dialup age"

    Actually began a (briefly) slow (then accelerating) fall off the cliff during the digital age because AOL as a suicidal marketing ploy introduced free use of the dialup connection which meant that every single user in New York City had the connection open and operational every minute of the day.

  11. Oh Homer
    Terminator

    A bit like Napster...

    When "Napster" officially ended it wasn't what a lot of (younger) people thought it was. The real Napster died years earlier.

    Same goes for ICQ.

    I remember the original fondly, but only because it was one of many iconic landmarks of my youth, not because I really used it much. Surprisingly, I do still remember my ICQ number, which is weird considering I barely ever used it.

    The thing that's about to pass into the abyss is not the thing that was born three decades ago. It's just a name, like Napster.

  12. The Vociferous Time Waster

    Call the self inflicted burns unit.

    "ICQ has tremendous appeal among young, technically sophisticated web users and there is remarkably little overlap with AOL"

    This is such a massive self burn. It reminds me of the people who say "The Democrat Party has tremendous appeal among young, politically sophisticated professionals and there is remarkably little overlap with the Republicans"

  13. david1024

    Ahh the bad ole days

    ICQ was ubiquitous across my internet social sphere back in the 90's. Good memories. So long, it essentially died with dialup and the AOL acquisition. Was fun while it lasted though... Sending files w/o ftp was game changing for us.

    And I miss the internet it operated on too.

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