After 28 years of operation, ICQ, a pioneering internet messaging service that once boasted 100 million accounts, has officially shut down. 

A picture taken on November 19, 2021, shows the ICQ messenger logo on a smartphone screen in Moscow.
(Photo : KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Internet Messenger ICQ Officially Shuts Down After 28 Years

According to AFP, the announcement came via a message on ICQ’s website on Wednesday, confirming the end of an era for the platform initially developed by Israeli programmers in 1996.

ICQ, famously styled to sound like “I seek you,” revolutionized real-time text chatting in the mid-1990s, becoming one of the first standalone instant messenger applications.

AOL acquired ICQ in 1998 and grew under American ownership, amassing over 100 million accounts by the early 2000s. However, its prominence dwindled over the years, and in 2010, ICQ transitioned to Russian ownership under the company now known as VKontakte, often referred to as Russia’s Facebook.

Despite its decline in popularity globally, ICQ made headlines in 2018 when it was cited as an alternative messaging platform following Russia’s ban on Telegram.

The platform, known for its user identification numbers (UINs) and decentralized chat capabilities, maintained a dedicated user base even as newer technologies and platforms emerged.

Long History of ICQ

The ICQ client application, which debuted in November 1996, was available for free download. The platform stood out as one of the earliest standalone instant messenger (IM) applications.

While real-time chat was not a new concept, ICQ pioneered a fully centralized network featuring individual user accounts with one-on-one conversations. This feature is adopted widely today within the messaging app ecosystem.

This approach laid the groundwork for subsequent instant messaging services like AIM and impacted modern social media applications. ICQ quickly gained widespread adoption as the first widely used IM platform.

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Final Years of ICQ

In its final years, ICQ struggled to retain relevance in a market dominated by more modern messaging services. Last month, ICQ announced its closure and urged its remaining users to migrate to VKontakte’s other messaging services, marking the end of an era for the pioneering platform.

ICQ’s influence on the development of instant messaging cannot be overstated. It set the blueprint for later services like AIM and influenced the design of modern social media applications. 

The shutdown of ICQ on June 26 signified the end of a chapter in internet history, as users bid farewell to a platform that once revolutionized online communication but ultimately struggled to adapt to a rapidly evolving digital landscape. 

As of writing, the messaging platform’s website said its service has stopped working. It redirects users to VK Messenger to chat with friends or VK Workspace to talk to colleagues. 

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