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ICQ: 20 Years Is No Limit (medium.com)
323 points by pvl1 on Nov 15, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 244 comments

Around 2000 I got annoyed with the ads and crap in ICQ, so I wrote Miranda ICQ, now called Miranda IM (http://www.miranda-im.org/) based on libicq. One of my main inspirations to write the app was I wanted to connect a chatbot to ICQ to harass my friends, but the standard API wouldn't allow sending messages. So I added a plugin API, connected the MegaHAL chatbot and good times ensued.

I lost interest in Miranda shortly after that, but I'm always impressed that a group has kept it going.

Hey! I'm not sure if we ever talked, but I maintained Licq and did the rewrite when the protocol got switched to be like AIM.

I also wrote the initial Miranda ICQ plugin for the new protocol as well, I think that was back in 2002.

Just thought I'd say hey.

licq, thanks for that, scary thoughts how much of my life back then passed thru licq.

I'm still on ICQ, via pidgin. There's just 'me' these days, but I'm holding the fort. So there :-)

There is still one icq contact occasionally online for me! And I think I talked to a friend using icq less than three years ago ;)

Though with all the closing of networks these last years I sometimes neglect starting pidgin at all since I'll need some tabs open fore messaging regardless :(

I connect out of tradition, too. Nobody uses it anymore but damn it if I didn't have many contacts.

Memory lane, eh?

Wish I could get my 5-6 digit icq number back... long since lost to the ether...

Aah Licq ... so much memories in my head right now. Thanks for the great product.

Back in 2004 the only way to connect to my employer's ICQcorp server from Linux was by running miranda under wine!

Thanks for that.

Oh man, Miranda was so great. I used it as my main client until I switched away from windows, but I loved how configurable and light it was. I guess I'm a complainy old fart now, but when one manages to see a time where apps open up, fully drawn, less than 50ms after you press the hotkey, you start hating all the bloated Electron and slow web apps that seem to be all we get nowadays.

A bit off topic, I guess, but I think the thing we most need now is a moderately low-level, easy to use, cross-platform UI toolkit. I don't want my desktop apps to take up 1 GB of RAM each and feel slow.

Wow, let me be the first to say Thanks! I still use Miranda daily, both at my desktop computer at home and at my computer at work. Just chat, no fuzz.. Just the way I like it.

It seems that Miranda has forked into Miranda IM and Miranda NG, what are your thoughts about those two? Personally, I use Miranda NG because the Facebook plugin worked better in NG last time I compared the two.

I'm out of the loop. Not even sure what the differences are. But as long as people are still interested in developing it and using it, I think that's good. Hopefully the fork will rejoin sometime in the future.

The early Trillian ~0.72; that one I really loved; I found Miranda later, so that I never really used.

A while ago I digged around in my computer and collected _all_ the chat logs I was able to find: Trillian, MSN, Pidgin, Empathy, Thunderbird, XChat, Facebook, and normalized them to plain text. They were in all sorts of formats: line-by-line XML, JSON, per file JSON, per file XML, text, HTML. (I had to exclude Skype due to it's binary log.) If you have any logs, do a similar normalization as soon as possible, it will only get more painful. Anyway, the trillian logs were exceptionally ugly with with the line-by-line all data in attributes XML, but hey, the user interface and the connect to any platform was awesome.

Most versions of Skype use SQLite for local storage, if that is of any help!

I didn't know that; I'll take a look. This was the Linux version 2.x era, mostly.

I've made a converter for 2.x series, reach me at turrini at gmail

whats the best front end program to read those databases, for non-db folks? (windows or linux / CLI or GUI)

There's a reasonably full featured plugin for Firefox called SQLite Manager that lets you open arbitrary SQLite files and browse / edit the contents.


SQLite Studio works great


Yup, I can second that, stable with good feature set.

I recently stumpled upon Skyperious[0]. I intend to test the merging feature soon (multiple computers and unsynced chat logs annoy me more that they should). So far the viewing works fine !

[0] https://suurjaak.github.io/Skyperious/index.html

Thanks a lot for Miranda, I'm using it since 2006 I think. I don't rely so heavily on it as I used to, probably because of popularity of facebook and mobile chat applications, but I still find it useful :-) I started using a fork http://www.miranda-ng.org some time ago, which seems to be more actively developed.

Miranda was my go to for years! We used to tar up our bundles and drop them into our work stations at our call centre jobs where messaging was a strict no no! Due to its super slim design and hotkeys it was the best tool for the job! Thank you for building it! I spent days upon days customizing it and hacking it as a young techie. It truly is my favourite messenger of all time. I wish I could still use it on OSX to consolidate all the different messaging services that are popular these days; slack, FB, imessage etc. It's funny how history repeats itself.

I created the original Add-ons for Miranda IM. Good to see you around here! Kinda still amazed that the project is still going.

Thanks a ton

Loved Miranda

Showed me how software should be. Useful, out of my way if not needed

Even preferred it over trillian and adium

Thanks a ton!

Wow you're a legend :) Thanks for Miranda.

That's awesome!

I remember these days when I studied (2002-2007) - before that the official ICQ client was the Go-To messenger. But as you said - people got annoyed by the introduced app. Then at university everybody had ICQ. It was the defacto communication mechanism - even between people that lived in adjacent rooms. And at some time all of those people started to move to Miranda at once, so you could probably find it on 1000s of PCs on the campus. New plugins came up all the time and were discussed.

I think we all greatly enjoyed the ability to show status/away messages on mouseover. And on the other side the ability to display a notification when someone has read your away message :) That lead to some very interesting usage patterns and conversations.

Thank you!!! I was so frustrated at having multiple chat apps I spent hours and hours around the time you were writing Miranda just trying to find one I liked. Miranda was like early Linux: ludicrously flexible configuration (and extensible!), but once you got it tweaked just right, it was hard to go back to anything different... including Trillian, which was the OSX foil to what Miranda was designed to be.

I don't know when I stopped using Miranda, but it was probably approximately when I started using Gtalk and encouraged the majority of my ICQ and AIM contacts to get Google accounts, too.

i loved miranda and the megahal plugin. one of my friends had a really good therapeutic session with the megahal plugin (thinking it was me) after his girlfriend broke up with him.

then some other friends discovered that it was a bot and that they could train it..... it didn't went well after that.

i still think about recoding megahal in pure JS and use it for the current hip chatbots.

thx for miranda (and the megahal plugin)

That's a good story, I didn't get much feedback from users at the time. Nice to hear to what people were doing. And yes, my megahal got 'trained' as well.

I started using Miranda relatively late - around 2008 or so - but I do recall that it was the best chat app back then. I think Pidgin started to become popular around this time.

Woah! Miranda was my first IRC+MSN client, back when MSN was a thing... I no longer use it, but let me be another person to thank you for creating it.

I loved Miranda, and made all my friends use it :)

Miranda was my go-to-client for quite a while, on Windows. I like it better Pidgin due to how lean it was. Thanks for writing it!

Thank you ! I was a happy user back then !

Haven't use ICQ in a long time but I still remember my ICQ number :)

Wow, thank you for a great program! used it for msn and irc for a long time. Never once annoyed me

Wow! Thanks for Miranda, really nice to have multiple IM clients in a single program.

That you so much! Miranda was such a great client! So lightweight.

Thanks you so much for creating Miranda. Small, unintrusive, fast.

Thank you for this. I used it for a couple of good years.

ICQ was an ad ridden overbloated UI shitfest.

Miranda was so beautiful!

I still use Miranda to this day. Thank you so much.

Woah! I loved Miranda IM. Thank you so much!

Oh I loved Miranda when it came out. Thanks.

I'm former ICQ backend developer (2010 - 2014).

I started to work at Mail.Ru in 2010, when Mail.Ru bought ICQ from AOL.

I was enjoyed working with ICQ backend code-base written by AOL (although to be honest not all code was high quality).

Here are some quick facts about ICQ backend infrastructure:

1) ICQ servers has over 2'700'000 lines of code which is written in C and C++;

2) ICQ has its own TCP/IP implementation which works in the user space;

3) Concurrency based on event-driven model (epoll), each instance handles many requests semi-simultaneously;

4) About 60 different interconnected internal services;

5) Each kind of backend service is a cluster of more than a hundred of instances;

6) C core-code is written in old-school style and I liked that;

7) OSCAR protocol is defined in TCL files. Our custom build system created C-functions which pack/unpack OSCAR messages;

8) Huge portion of core code-base was dedicated to create very scalable distributed server architecture;

Note that all publicly available information in the Internet about ICQ protocol describing legacy binary protocol called OSCAR. Native modern mobile client uses HTTP based protocol which supports recently added features.

According to Mail.Ru Group audited annual report, in December 2013 ICQ had 11 million monthly active users.

P.S. I would prefer not to discuss marketing/business side of ICQ because I personally had fundamentally different opinion from AOL/Mail.Ru product owners. I was quite happy with plain minimalist Pidgin ICQ client. Also, I'm not aware of new features this guy describing. Many things in code-base may be changed since I left the company.

>6) C core-code is written in old-school style and I liked that;

How "old-school" are we talking? Like K&R-C style or what?

I forgot to mention an important fact about ICQ core code-base.

The core framework for ICQ was actually written by AOL long before ICQ was born. I.e. they developed general framework for scalable distributed systems.

So some comments in the code are dated as early as 1992.

I didn't mean formatting style but general flavor of how programs was written at these days. I can't put it into words, it's better to just see the code. Although, I'm not permitted to show the code.

Why do you assume it was written by AOL and not Mirabilis?

As far as I know AOL entirely rewrote ICQ code-base.

Also, this code is part of AOL internal framework which is not directly connected to ICQ.

K&R C must surely be too old. It was starting to be old in the early 90s, and I think Linux and GNU where quite progressive in the days.

But, hum hum, What is considered non-old-school really modern C? Are there any new non-trivial C programs or systems anymore?

I look at the Linux kernel and some drivers occasionally, and possibly do some changes in some drivers and tools related to DVB and media, but I never look at "new" C code.

Around the turn of the century people stopped going crazy with macros, globals and exposing struct definitions in header files, at least this is where I draw the line between old and new school

> exposing struct definitions in header files

Hiding the struct like:

    typedef struct foo_t foo_t;
    /* ... */
    foo_t *foo_new();
kinda forces heap allocs. There are times when you want to allocate on the stack, and not use alloca.

Most of the time, I still keep struct definitions in header files, but API wise I always write functions or macros for anything that touches them and discourage direct access to struct members. Depending on the use case of course. Abstract types have their uses too.

I expose struck definitions in header files too. What is a better or alternative way to do it?

> ICQ has its own TCP/IP implementation which works in the user space;

Mind expanding a little bit why is that?

Could it be because of the age of the codebase? When ICQ started the available TCP/IP stacks were not good enough and it doesn't make sense to refactor the whole project to use the system stack.

Yes, that's mostly true.

In early days, native TCP/IP stacks wasn't good at handling so many simultaneous connections as ICQ needed to handle.

So AOL just wrote their own TCP/IP stack (I think they used this implementation not only in ICQ).

In modern days, it's legacy.

I think they already removed this stack since I left company.

Probably to minimize context switching?

Did anyone else used to "hack" people on ICQ? If I recall correctly, ICQ would expose users IP address if they didn't intentionally hide it. My friend and I would get to chatting with strangers and then exchange photos... Only ours wasn't a photo, it was something that opened a backdoor into their computer that would allow us to take over their PC. We never did anything harmful but might have gotten a few people in trouble for looking at naughty websites or freaked them out by printing to their printer or opening and closing their CD drives sporadically. This would have been around 9th grade 1999-ish...

We used to send trojans to people around the same time. I got particularly consumed by it and started a file on a girl a couple of years older than us (we were around 10-11 at the time). Shit got too real and I ended up seeing a conversation she had with her friend about how she was pregnant and didn't dare tell her parents. It all got too personal, somehow, and I realized I had a window into too much of her life, so I nuked it and never looked back.

It was a bad thing to do from the beginning, but at least I learned something about life and after that I had an even bigger interest in computers and programming, as well as the idea of creating something instead of only doing bad things. Shortly after I had my first touch of programming (outside of copying a "Snake" game from a magazine) when I wrote macros for Ultima Online.

Thinking back to this time with ICQ and all of this is making me really nostalgic and I sort of wish I could sit in with my old self and talk about the future.

Ummm I didn't but I knew people who did ;) ;)

Your description matches "my friends" experience 100%

Back when hacking was more about pranking and fun.

Yeah it was 100% fun, no malicious intent. Judging by the downvotes, people don't find it amusing. I can see that now that I'm not a dumb teenage... but it made for fond memories none the less! And the fact that pretty non-technical 15 year olds could pull that off in a matter of minutes, probably drove companies to take security a bit more seriously (hopefully)!

It was pre digital photography, so not like anyone had private nudes on their hard drive to poke through.

I can 100% attest that is is a false assumption. </regret>

Definitely. I remember an ICQ 'friend' telling me about it.

I think that is basically how I got into the deeper end of 'computing': learning about IPs, TCP/IP, playing around with scripts and hacking together my own (or more usually hacking around someone else's code to make it do what I wanted it to do).

I sort of miss those days of the internet. I am not sure how to describe it but it felt more free and less restricted. People around me in real life weren't as familiar with it either so it had this weird vibe around it; a lot of it sounded like magic to them. Whenever you mentioned 'The Internet' there was an air of mystery around it.

No, but I was a moderator or helper in #NoHack on DALnet for a while, giving people removal instructions all day :)

Good man. Cleaning up after us snotnose teenage wannabe hackers. :D

Sounds like SubSeven.

I commented on using Back Orifice but Sub7 was another one we used.

If I remember correctly BO didn't have a GUI until they (Cult of the dead Cow) updated it to BO2k so it was easier for us kids to use Sub7.

BO surely did have a GUI! Sub7 was dark and sleek though, while BO had a messy office-like look.

Thanks, it's been so long I probably just forgot what software we were using that was only command line.

I had a folder with a lot of these with virus that I could play with, it was fun, until my sister selected and executed all of them...

Or NetBus.

Yeah, I got sent that by someone when I was a teenager. Good thing my ISP blocked incoming ports (not a good thing when I found out that HTTP servers exist, but with all the nuking that went on in the 90s, probably for the best overall).

Yep that was the one I remember.

We renamed the BackOrifice server to picture.bmp and used /whois to get the IP address on IRC channels.

Isn't that still an issue with Skype?

Everybody is missing the elephant in the room with ICQ, which is why it was popular:

In my mid 20's, i'd come back from the pub drunk, login, search for girls online now near me and send them messages. Was usually somebody drunk at the other end, had a few fleeting relationships from that.

Nothing since, including Facebook, has had that same immediacy.

Back in 2001 or so, a good friend of mine pushed the "random ICQ user" button. He connected with a girl from Brazil. One thing lead to another, she moved to Denmark and now they're married with two kids.

Tinder is kind of like that? Wechat has something similar in China. I worked at a messaging company, and I found out those kind of 'unsolicited date messaging' features are a really good way to scare away your female users pretty quickly.

ICQ happened to figure something out - girls wrote boys as well, I remember getting messages from strangers as often as initiating those.

Anyway, it was more about talking than about romantic relationship. Not many people expected to ever meet their virtual friends.

You can definitely ruin that, for example, if you do not randomize well enough and a small subset of user base gets too much attention.

You sure those girls were girls?

Remember, this was the internet back when men were men and women were men and children were FBI agents.

Women were comparably more fond of ICQ and even now it's them who still hold on to it. It's very unlike the IRC sausage party. I think you would more likely to run into a girl pretending to be male.

Also, I have this feeling that it's much harder to disguise your gender in Russian than it is in English. First of all, everybody has it as first language with all its nuance and can guess a lot of things about their penpal. Discussions are also deeper, making it harder to fake.

I'm pretty sure, because I actually met some of them. Have few old friends now from that times.

Frankly that seems to have never changed.

IRC had the same problem. Jump onto a "social" channel with a feminine sounding nick and you would get the screen covered in ASL queries.

That's how I met my wife!

I also met my wife that way!

<joke about also meeting your wife that way>

in my home country, it was also cheaper to send an ICQ message via WAP than sending a text message. It was such a clever work around expensive texting.

Meanwhile I'd connect to WAP and my £10 monthly phone credit would be gone in seconds flat...

You are perhaps not aware of Grindr.

Good point. But this was 15+ years ago, available to everybody, and was completely anonymous.

Forgive me if this is incredibly ignorant, but I thought this was targeted at the gay community?

Well, on this side of the fence it pretty much still works as OP described. Nothing has changed and you don't even need to be drunk!

Difference is, the gay community (or some subset of it that I don't know the size of) has always had it's quick hook up methods.

Nothing so comfortable you can use from your home. Of course the public parks in Berlin are still the other option, or just spending your night in Berghain.

There is still substantial reasons to be quick about it when you are out in public if you are gay, with exception for a few small geographical areas.

I'd still take that over meeting in bars and pretending to care for a few hours.

The craziest thing about all of this, is that my number 7672xxx still works! Every few years I download the client, and my username and password from the late 90s is still valid. This is no small feat in the age of shutdowns and spin-offs.

In other news, WebRings still exists as well.

Just a question. I see more of the commenters have posted their ICQ UIDs with the last digits hidden, like yours ( xxx in the end ).

Is there a particular reason for not revealing it?

The 'x's actually appear to him as numbers because it's his UID.

Hm let me try. 3827Hunter2. Did you just see x's?

Hm let me try. xxxxxxxxxxx. Did you just see x's?


For anyone not getting the joke, see http://bash.org/?244321

Passwords weren't very secure back then :P

because low digit ICQ UIDs were for sale at a price and some people stole other people's accounts for profit

Why is everyone worried about this now?

Alas, while researching this[1] article I discovered that there are no active WebRings still in operation. (the few sites that claim to be working webrings are in fact fake)

[1] http://www.codersnotes.com/notes/under-construction/

Webring.org is definitely still in operation. Take a look at a site like http://worldlighthouses.yolasite.com and try the Webring navigation at the bottom.

« Le webring de la salade » was still active only a couple years ago, and I personnally know some of its members, so I can probably get you into it if you wish. It's quite a niche webring though, and somewhat broken nowadays ;-)


The sad reality is that ICQ was more functional and cross platform than IM are on skype 20 years later...

Kinda the point now a days. Everyone wants platform lock-in.

This drives me so crazy. Usability has regressed because everyone wants to control everything.

As far as I know it's not possible to get one app that combines Google Hangouts, iMessage, Facebook Messager, WhatsApp, etc... into one place like you could with the old messaging apps. Now you have to leave 10 things running all the time just to keep your connections.

If text is enough, Bitlbee, combined with libpurple is pretty close to combine all: https://wiki.bitlbee.org/

yeah but platform lock-in shouldn't prevent me from sending an IM from skype for MacOS to skype for Windows...

What? I do that all the time, it works fine?

No, it shouldn't.

But, that's MS for ya! (Ducks and runs)

Well, Skype is generally rubbish from any point of view with the exception of the amount of people who use it.

Thanks, Microsoft!

smacks forehead

I seek you. I don't think I ever got that. And it was my primary messaging platform for a long time - I grudgingly made the move to AIM sometime around 2002. I felt that ICQ allowed more in-depth conversations; IM was much more call-and-response.

CQ has been used for over a century as a call by radio operators (mostly in Morse code, where it's encoded as -.-. --.-). It's a general call that invites any operators that receive it to respond to you.

It actually originated from the French word sécurité, but in English-language countries it was quickly backronym'd to become an abbreviation of "seek you".

There were a few applications that had names along those lines during that "era": ICQ, CUSeeMe (video chat), and so on.

ICQ had changed the online experience for me: For the first time I was able to see actual people and friends surfing the web at the same time. I was no longer alone.

Previously, with Compuserve and BBSs, I've only been using asynchroneous communication forms like mail or forums. (I stayed away from chat rooms, but I don't remember why.)

Nowadays I don't even use any messenger app which shows the online/offline status. I just assume everyone is online all the time...

(Ah yes, ICQ# 188126. Lost my password before I found out that you could actually sell low numbers like that for good money.)

My ICQ UID is 15584496 . I still remember people buying less-digits or easy-to-remember digits accounts for real money.

Gosh, I just logged in. Kudos for not auto-deleting my account for so many years.

163766. Had tons of people asking to buy it. Too bad I can't even log in since it's tied to my email address from 4th or 5th grade.

I think the numbers started at 100000.

Prior to that, elementary school, I used PowWow and Mplayer to socialize with pretty much only Californians.. since everyone on the internet back then lived in CA. That was a weird time. I of course was 18 for.. oh, 10 years.

I believe I've met 2-3 people with lower numbers than mine.

edit: Wow, just signed in, been awhile. None of my friends online and the web app doesn't tell you their last time online. Not sure if the desktop apps still do.

You can get it back! I was in the same spot.

Contact ICQ support and tell them that you no longer have access to that email. You'll confirm your UIN and a few names from your user list. It took about a day to get mine back.

Thanks for this post - I've contacted them and intend to get my old account back too! 48xxxx level.

157xxx here. Logged in just for kicks and found out that yes, the password still works. :)

I don't remember meeting anyone with a lower number than mine, although I was aware that, at least on the global user directory, there were 2 people in my city with a lower number, both related.

In my case I got last online times for several people (mobile app) but mostly all from 2015. I wonder if that's in any way related with the govt blocking WhatsApp that year...

Numbers started at 10000, uin 31337 was one of the AOL admins.

141181 here btw, everyone is offline. One friend used icq until maybe a year ago, offline now too.

I remember that once I started looking for really low numbers and I believe in the 100s range you could find Mirabilis developers.

Wow, I thought mine in the 400k's was low. I lost it, though.

I remember meeting a 14xxxx or 13xxxx once! Maybe both.

538342. Had a weak / compromised password for ages, I'm surprised to have been able to access my account and change to a stronger password. I'm not sure the popularity of 6 digit accounts and the password compromise times overlapped much though.

Had some great times chatting to people all around the world on ICQ. I think I still have a couple of FB friends from that era.

I was bouncing an idea of an IRC like pager app around in my head in the months before I became aware of ICQ (but well after it was already developed).

I'm surprised I remembered the password at all, and I can't change it without giving out a mobile phone number for a SMS. No thanks.

"Your account has been compromised, you must enter a mobile to enable 2FA"? I got that when trying to troll, uh I mean chat, a group chat last night.

The form looks like:

  Change Password

  [ Password field for current password ]

  (i) Passwords must contain 8-16 symbols. They must include numbers and uppercase and lower case Latin letters.

  [ New Password field ] [ Confirm Password field ]
  (i) Get SMS code via mobile phone number to confirm new password

  [ Country code selector ] [ Phone number field ]

        [ Request SMS button ]

The trick was this: back then you'd check the associated email addresses of low ICQ numbers. If it was Yahoo, Hotmail and the like, there was a small chance that the email address expired and could be re-registered.

The forgot password thing then gave you access to the ICQ account.

180662, and I am still using it!


I met my wife on ICQ.

It's a shame AOL ruined it with ads and overall crappiness, it could have been Facebook - a decade before FB was even a figment in Zuck's imagination. To be fair, it didn't help that MS did their "leveraging Windows" play; around 2002, I realized "normal" people had gone to Messenger because it was "just there" and it worked better with firewalls. But that was it, the IM scene was never as cohesive again -MSN, C6, Jabber, Yahoo, they all split the network.

I still talk to one person regularly on ICQ. I just wish they would add some encryption. :(


edit: It says in the article that they do use encryption. However, the official website states something different:

> ICQ does not encrypt your communications. In addition, your communications may be routed through different countries - that is the nature of the Internet. ICQ cannot accept any responsibility for any unauthorized access or loss of Data.


I'm quite frankly amazed ICQ is still alive, I thought it was one of those things that had just died out some time ago.

I think ICQ (along with non-technical IRC) took a gut punch when Microsoft bundled MSN Messenger with Windows XP.

Almost over night people were switching to (or adopting) MSNM, often reproducing online the cliques already existing in the local communities.

Are you Canadian by any chance? MSN only ever really seemed to take off in some specific regions, one of which was Canada. After ICQ, almost all my American contacts moved to AIM. Which was honestly pretty awful, since MSNM was much nicer.

Sweden went something like ICQ/IRC -> MSN -> Skype Chat -> WhatsApp.

I think AIM was only ever popular in the US (America On Line after all).

The interesting period was when IRC was still popular even among non-techies. The girls in school would sit on the PCs in mIRC.

Only other place i can think of that may have had AOL was UK, and then only because i noticed some AOL ads on satellite tv channels from there.

Yeah we had AOL over here. I used AIM once, didn't like it and went back to using YIM and MSN.

I think MSN was much more popular globally, while AIM dominated in America for obvious reasons. In Australia, I only ever met people using ICQ or MSN, the only time you used AIM was to speak to an American.

Australian here as well. ICQ was really popular among my classmates when I was in year 7 to 9 at high school. This was right around Napster time as well I remember downloading mp3's (via dial up) and chatting with people all night.

ICQ at school was really cliquey there was a lot of "I'm going to give you my ICQ number but you can't give it to X".

Teenage me was really happy when I got the ICQ # of a girl at school I had a huge crush on (This was pre mobile phones so you couldn't exchange text messages back then or snap chats or whatever the kids use to flirt with each other these days).

When I moved away from home and started university I stopped logging in lost touch with a heap of people as a result. I can't remember my ICQ no. nowadays...

In the UK, everyone used MSN too. I ended up having MSN for my school friends, but AIM for all my internet friends from online games/communities. And then there were always a few using Yahoo.

Can confirm: everyone I knew in Belgium growing up used MSN, but no one I met at my American college had ever used it.

MSNm was very Canadian. AOL was never huge in Canada, maybe that is why?

Norwegian actually.

I thought ICQ died off long ago - much like MSN Messenger faded away years ago.

Does anyone still use it?

ICQ was huge in Germany and I was actively using it until 2011 or so, even to communicate with my supervisor at Uni. One year ago, there were still four people left in my list. Also, a good friend that I haven't talked to in 10 years used it to reconnect with me just last year. I wouldn't have her in my life today if ICQ shut down.

It has died down almost completely by now though, thanks to whatsapp, skype and hangouts. I still log on with pidgin and there is at least one person in my list that does the same.

I will never forget my ICQ number, it is burned into my brain forever.

I used to exclusively use Skype for talking to friends, but most stopped using it ~2 years ago.

I don't have a need for Whatsapp - although I hear it's super popular outside of the US.

Now I mainly use Google Hangouts, but I always feel like it's lacking and isn't as nice as Skype or other alternatives (for both messaging and video).

I do. Have one friend that's still on ICQ. Everybody else mostly migrated to VK.


It's a Russian/EU Social network / messaging app. Never seen it in the US but could just be my circle.

In which EU countries is it used? (not counting russian foreigners)

vkontakte, a russian facebook like site.

I still have that "uhoh" sound as my phones notification.

I did that as well. It worths a try: the confused faces of IT people in the office is always hilarious.

It's amazing how they blew it. I remember, back in the day they were dominant messaging platform. And now they are relic of the past, while WhatsApp was purchased for $19 billions. All of this because they missed mobile revolution.

From where I sat, they lost long before the mobile revolution - people were already annoyed by the bloated ICQ client full of stupid games and ads, and then Microsoft killed them by bundling MSN with Windows (and then MSN Messenger bloated up and added ads...)

This was so long ago I remember running a ICQ J2ME app on a 2G GSM phone

A 4 person team getting $400 million after a few years is "blowing it"?

From my perspective the "they" being referenced is AOL.

They blew so many things but basically the problem is that after the time warner deal, time warner just bled them dry, hoarding all the dialup money and refusing to invest in anything.

And because they were too greedy with their annoying ads.

Fun fact: So many international criminals use ICQ to make deals that "unspecified federal investigators" (read: spooks) had "brought concerns to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S." (the treasury) protesting its sale to a Russian company and asking them to stop it.

ICQ is specifically referenced in speeches by FBI and intelligence agency directors. So that's a pretty neat rep to have.

From back when I was active in the "black market" (around 2009), nobody would deal with you if you didn't use ICQ or OTP. Carders especially used ICQ almost exclusively.

Pleased to see ICQ here on HN.

They were the competitors at a company[2] I consulted for in mid-90's in India who I believe made a product equal or better than ICQ.

But the potential was never fulfilled due to founder personality quirks and right time/place issue. They had a gun video conferencing product[2] in late 90's than worked quite well on ISDN lines and even on dial up.

The product was built in collaboration with the famous IIT-Chennai

[1] https://goo.gl/hV4EVz

[2] https://goo.gl/P97rhN

I still remember my ICQ # (147xxxxx - set up around 1997 or 1998 I think) and my password - looking at the list of contacts, I suspect most if not all haven't logged in over 10 years. It's like a time capsule.

ICQ was a legend! I can't believe nobody has mentioned OICQ yet. It was a Chinese clone made in 1999, and what later on was renamed to Tecent QQ.

ICQ brings back some memories. I think the last time I used ICQ was around '99. I was a little shit (14-years-old) and messing around with Sub7 and writing my own client/server tools in Delphi. I was literally just spamming random people after school with either the Sub7 server or my own little tools and screwing with their computers. The "Matrix Screen" always freaked people out.

7285081 - I still remember it 20 years later.

I think I was introduced to ICQ when I started playing Ultima Online. Good times, better internets back then.

Ultima Online was the best mmo I've ever played. So much flexibility and ... well it was really impossible to onboard without extensive help from everyone else on the server.

Which made it even better. Met a lot of cool people that way.

I remember one time I was playing as a girl and got somebody to "marry" me so they'd give me free stuff. Got a loooot of free stuff by being a girl on UO.

Good times.

1210407 here. The website says that my password cannot be recovered though. :(

>7285081 - I still remember it 20 years later.

There's no reason whatsoever that I should remember my ID. I haven't used the service in at least a decade, probably more. I'm often astonished at how the brain tucks away (apparently) useless information that comes to the surface via a chance stimulus. For me, such bits are sometimes many decades old and AFAIK unreferenced since being acquired. At these times I've thought to myself "there's absolutely zero reason this memory should still be in my head, it's insignificant and useless." I'd think the brain would have better uses for its limited storage, even for coldline data.

Same here. Introduced to ICQ while playing UO. Used it to ping each other when there was a rare spawn/scrolls up.

Good times.

209xxxx uo player as well with primary use coming from that. Later on a little Diablo 1 and few others as well.

Good times!

I used ICQ heavily due to Ultima Online. I stopped using it when I both stopped playing UO and noticed all my real friends used AIM.

Sadly I remember my ICQ number, 3522071, but have long since forgotten my password. Since at the time they either didn't bother with recovery email addresses or it was optional I also have no access to my account.

I have some deaf relatives and was surprised to learn that ICQ is still very popular among deaf people (at least in the Netherlands). Think it was particularly due to the cross platform availability i.c.w. ease of videochat for sign language.

My # was 522621, I registered in the spring of 1998. My password was hacked well over 10 years ago and I've never been able to recover the account. Not that I would ever need it, but it would be nice to have it back.

IM seems like such an established part of the internet now, it's easy to forget how amazing it seemed when I first saw it. Finally I could chat with my friends without us all having to be on IRC at the same time. It was also much easier to use than IRC, which brought in a lot of other friends I had who were less technically inclined.

Haha I guess we can just ignore the end where ICQ becomes a near perfect copy of Snapchat in the last year? True innovation. I mean look at those screenshots. It's more direct than what Instagram did.

Speaking of "old service becomes something else", anyone seen what Bebo has become recently...? It's uhh... interesting.

Everybody is posting their user IDs but I can't remember mine.

I was 103477,2372 on CompuServe, but I'm guessing that my mom's credit card that I used expired about 25 years ago.

I still remember my ICQ number and I haven't used it since 99b.

And looking it up reveals I was stupid enough to fill in my birthday correctly for it, which still displays publicly to this day.

Yeah, I have a 500K number. I had a friend who was in the low 30Ks.

There was a sense in "pride" when you gave someone your number and they would say "Isn't there meant to be a few more numbers?"

Bah, my ICQ number is 52M. I am impressed my credentials are still in my Pidgin setup, though. And that it still logs in.

I don't think I have ever received or sent any messages, or met anyone else who used it.

On the plus side, my Slashdot number is under 7000, so that validates my life a little, and OH GOD THE RESET PASSWORD LINK EMBEDS YOUR OLD PASSWORD IN THE RESET URL IN THE CLEAR I need to wash my brain out now...

I had a 5-digit in low 20K at the time.

It was stolen because of a weak password on the account.

This is how I started my way in cyber security, thanks to the frustration and further research on how that happened.

Yeah same here, mine was an 8 digit, so not super impressive. But still was stolen. Associated with a .ir email account now. Oh well.

Same sort of thing happens with low SteamIDs.

i had a 6-digit number in the 150's. i haven't logged in in years, and when i did the password reset i discovered it's associated with some mail.ru address now. oh well.

I had two numbers at one point, tended to give out the longer one to avoid confusing people and appear "normal", hah.

> And looking it up reveals I was stupid enough to fill in my birthday correctly for it, which still displays publicly to this day.

You're implying that there's a search page where you can search accounts. I forgot what's number of my account and am curious if there's anyone who that I know that still uses it.

Ah, at last via web.icq.com I was able to recover my account, update my email address, and reset my password.

Looks like my contact list was wiped at some point over the years, though.

If I remember it correctly, server-side contact lists were only introduced in 2001 or so. In 99b it was stored on the client. That's my faint memory speaking, though.

That may be. I'd guess I last used ICQ in 1999 at the latest. I think I have a backup of my client database somewhere, but chances are slim it's readable.

Strangely that is the only long number I could remember ( was never able to remember phone number )

Do we have anyone who works at ICQ here? This post gave me the idea to log back in to my old account from 2002'ish but it says it is "compromised" and won't let me do anything.

These comments have a wonderful sense of nostalgia to them. Thanks everyone for brightening my day with a blast from the past.

Holy crap I still remember my user number. I just downloaded the client and logged in!!!! If anyone wants to say Hi... 8335393.

I actually met my fiancé on icq back in 1996, we kept in contact and met in 2005. Been together 11 years now :-)

So much nostalgia in this thread. I wonder if we're gonna do the same for jabber in a few years.

Apparently my memory is faulty, but I could have sworn I tried to find ICQ 10ish years ago and found it no longer existed. I guess what I likely found was that no one I knew used it anymore. I wonder whether they still have a significant group of dedicated users.

Was a hardcore ICQ user for years until the AOL buyout and subsequent horking of the overall experience. Kept my account but moved to multi-protocal clients such as Pidgin. Glad to see someone still loves it like we all did.

And yes, I still can recite my 7 digit UIN.

Disclaimer: I have never used ICQ.

Here I'm noticing few comments about how people met their significant others on ICQ. It seems, in those times, ICQ didn't face a "social awkwardness" as is faced by Omegle today.

Looking over the shots, it seems like ICQ over time morphed into Facebook...

"(UINs used to be rather expensive, by the way)"

Anyone know what the author means by "expensive" in this context? It's a six digit number, exclusive to ICQ, how could it be "expensive"?

A handful of years ago (~10) I was offered BTC (way before their $100+ value) and I think $75-200 for my 6 digit number. People used to sell Myspace UIDs as well, Facebook too before they converted to usernames.

Wow, I wonder who would pay such kind of money. I probably still have my old ICQ number/pwd in backups somewhere. I wonder if it is worth something.

In some states having a low license plate number is a status symbol. In Rhode island you can even put your license plate number in your estate to be willed to your heirs.


>In 1994, a Delaware resident paid $182,500 for plate number 9. In Rhode Island, two brothers went to court in 1983 over their late father's three-digit plate. In Massachusetts, a recent auction of low-numbered plates raised more than $1 million for the state's 9/11 fund.

Now that it's a deserted place I doubt it is worth much.

Well, another chance of being rich missed!

Depends on the uin. 5 digits where expensive (esp. mirrord ones, like 55155 or something). 6 digits were expensive if they matched some parttern (mirrors, xy, xyz etc).

I had (or might have even) a low 6 digit number, and I think I remember that 5-digit numbers were sold for much more than $200.

A few might have been sold for around $5000 or even more. I am not sure though... I just remember that it was an unbelievably high number....

Weird. I should have sold mine rather than throwing away the little scrap of paper I'd written it on.

10 years ago there was no bitcoins. Maybe 5-6 years ago, 7 tops.

I remember there was a license issue about ICQ where they made you license everything you wrote on ICQ.. that's when I left the platform.

It's good to see that they eventually added end-to-end encryption.

I still have my ICQ number memorized. 217XXXX. Good times... made a lot of friends there that I still maintain (though we've all moved to new services)

Fun fact: not so long ago I logged again in ICQ. My password was only three letters. Good times.

For some reasons I still remember my login number.

I met my wife through ICQ. Life changing tech. :)

Me too. In 1999.

That "uhoh" sound is so ingrained in me that I still hear it spontaneously in my head sometimes.

I loved ICQ. Thanks for the memories

It was the find random user that I used back in the day.

Do I wish I could find my old ICQ number and password

Since we're talking about old chat systems, I would like to add that I miss MSN Messenger a lot, and would really like to see it coming back.

Oh yes, I loved how they integrated some games in the chat client.

ICQ is still around ? Impressive.

surprised to learn it still exists, good memories.

Pidgin + OTR.

>the forerunner of all messengers


IRC? write? talk? CBBS?


IMO he missed Windows there, like 'forerunner of all Windows messengers'.

IRC did not have persistent user identities. (IRC+memoserv perhaps, but that "feels" more like email than like a messenger). The others weren't internet-wide were they?

Talk was. And BBSes were area-wide (and later, practically net-wide with the advent of Fidonet).

Those aren't really messengers.

Unix talk is pretty close. Also, BBS chat software would be another good example, although that was somewhat rare since few BBS systems had multiple lines and even on the ones that did you wouldn't just hang out waiting to chat.

I missed the low UIN boat on ICQ because I was solidly into FreeBSD back then and the ICQ client was only on Windows. It also looked sketchy as hell with the crudely drawn flower icon and public domain sound effects. I didn't join for years and ended up with a barely 7 digit UIN.

I had a friend that would only talk over ICQ, waaaay after its heyday. I don't remember when I created the account, but I ended up with a 9-digit ID...which I somehow still remember. I was able to log in for the first time in probably 3 years (and input my password for about the first time in 10 years. Pidgin had been configured to auto-login to ICQ on a previous machine of mine).

The flower icon reminds me of the 60s Austin Powers vibe. Wonder if that was the intent?

What about IRC?

IRC is not a messenger-type thing; it's not a local client, it never had a system-wide single handle - you had to register on each network, if it was possible at all.

The typing and receiving may be similar, but the approach is different.

I seem IRC as more of a group chat application. You could direct message people on it, but its purpose was closer to a forum than a messaging app.

Define "messenger."

All of the above (save perhaps write) allow two users to converse freely, over a network. Sounds like a messenger to me.


Which happily is still around! https://cyber1.org/index.asp

Huh. I was thinking of the Archemides for some reason. That makes much more sense.

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