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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.

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