Blast from the Pasts: AOL Sells ICQPosted: April 28, 2010
I am totally having a nostalgic 1.0-Internet month. First there was another Napster post added to the catalog, there was a lot of fun with Geocities yesterday (more on that later) and now part of me is coping with another part of my Internet past ticking away.
ICQ, one of the first wide-spread IM desktop platforms, has been sold to a Russian communications company, Digital Sky Technologies. Now, I don’t know anyone who has heard the famed “Uh-oh” in the last decade – AOL picked up the owning company in the late 90s and a lot of the tools likely ended up in future desktop versions of AOL’s Instant Messenger. Still, ICQ was definitely a helpful part of consumer digital adoption after it launched in 1996.
Like e-mail, I wouldn’t guess that instant messaging is going anywhere, as both are an incredible example of the universality and immediacy that a digital connection can give to communications. Sure, we’ve moved from ICQ user numbers to alphanumeric screen names involving the words “Baller” and then finally to our actual names with Gmail – and this waning anonymity is something of which I’m sure Dan Kennedy would approve – but the technology is not greatly different since the early days of the platform.
One of my favorite arguments is the importance of Peer-2-Peer file sharing in the revolution of a share-first information economy. I’d be wrong to exclude the progression from IRC into IMing as another way the process became more normalized for the general user. ICQ was a good step along the way. I could have left this at my terrible first attempt at humor on this (“In Soviet Russia, ICQ Seeks You”), but, a fond salute on the way back to the mother country is probably acceptable enough.
Adios, ICQ. You taught us to crawl.