ICQ is an instant messaging computer program, which was first developed by the Israeli company Mirabilis, now owned by Time Warner's AOL subsidiary. The first version of the program was released in November 1996 and ICQ became the first Internet-wide instant messaging service. The name ICQ is an initialism on the phrase "I seek you". America Online (AOL) acquired Mirabilis on June 8, 1998 for $407 million. Today ICQ is used by over 31 million users worldwide.
was first established by five Israelis
: Yair Goldfinger, Sefi Vigiser, Amnon Amir, Arik Vardi and his father Yossi Vardi
. They recognized that many people are online
and using a non-UNIX operating system
, and that there is no software that enables an immediate connection between them.
What was missing was the technology for locating and connecting the users in the Windows operating system.
The technology Mirabilis developed for ICQ brought a new spirit into the IM world and gained success while being distributed and downloaded for free. This success brought AOL to acquire Mirabilis on June 8, 1998, for $407 million. With this signed agreement, Mirabilis became the first Israeli high-tech company sold at this price.
QQ, a Chinese instant messaging program and network, had its previous name OICQ in conflict with ICQ and changed it.
- ICQ features include sending text messages, offline support, multi-user chats, free daily-limited SMS sending, resumable file transfers, greeting cards, multiplayer games and a searchable user directory.
- ICQ6 was launched on April 17 , 2007, and offered a single communication platform that combines the various user options: IM services, free SMS from ICQ to mobile, voice and video communication. The software's new sound gallery was orchestrated by the Israeli psychedelic trance duo Infected Mushroom. Among the new additional features in ICQ6 are Quick IM, which allows users to send a short message without opening a conversation window, a “follow me” service directly to the user’s mobile, a multi-chat service and Zlango support, the animated icons language.
ICQ provides all users additional services and content products:
- ICQ TV—An online video magazine. The magazine broadcasts content for teens 24/7.
- ICQ SIM Card (together with United Mobile)—A SIM card that enables users traveling across Europe to use their mobile while paying a discount price.
- ICQ Game Center—A games platform that enables the user to play with and /or against other users.
- ICQ2Go—A web IM option for users who cannot download the program onto their computer (for various reasons, like firewall for instance). ICQ2Go uses a ‘port-80’ browser for this type of communication feature.
ICQ users are identified by numbers called UIN
, distributed in sequential order. The UIN was first invented by Mirabilis
, as the user name assigned to each user upon registration. The meaning is either Universal Internet Number
or Unified Identification Number
. Every user receives a UIN when first registering to ICQ. As of ICQ6, users are also able to log in using the specific e-mail
address they associated with their UIN during the registration process.
Unlike other IM
software or web applications
, on ICQ the only permanent user info is the UIN, although it is possible to search for other users using their associated e-mail address or any other detail they have made public (by updating it in the public profile). In addition, the user can change all of his or her personal information, including screen name
and e-mail address, without having to re-register. Since 2000, ICQ and AIM
users are able to add each other to their contact list without the need for any external clients. As a response to UIN theft or sale of attractive UINs, ICQ started to store email addresses previously associated to a UIN
As such, UINs that are stolen can sometimes be reclaimed. This applies only if (since 1999 and onwards) a valid primary email address was entered into the user profile.
ICQ was developed in 1996 by Mirabilis
. The company was founded by four young Israelis: Yair Goldfinger
, Arik Vardi
, Sefi Vigiser
and Amnon Amir
. After AOL bought it, it was managed by Ariel Yarnitsky and Avi Shechter.
America Online acquired Mirabilis on June 8, 1998 for $407 million, ($287 million in cash and $120 million over a three-year period based on growth performance levels).
- ICQ 2000 incorporated the now-defunct Notes and Reminder features.
- ICQ 2001 has presented the important feature: support of server-side contact list. It meant that the user could get access to the contact list from any PC where ICQ 2001 or higher had been installed.
- On December 19, 2002, AOL Time Warner announced that ICQ had been issued a United States patent for instant messaging.
- ICQ 2002 was the last completely advertising-free ICQ version.
- ICQ Pro 2003b was the first ICQ version to use the ICQ protocol version 10. However, ICQ 5 and 5.1 use version 9 of the protocol. ICQ 2002 and 2003a used version 8 of the ICQ protocol. Earlier versions (ICQ 2001b and all ICQ clients before it) used ICQ protocol version 7.
- ICQ 4 and later ICQ 5 (released on Monday, February 7, 2005), were upgrades on ICQ Lite. One addition was Xtraz, which offers games and features intended to appeal to younger users of the Internet. ICQ Lite was originally an idea to offer the lighter users of instant messaging an alternative client which was a smaller download and less resource-hungry for relatively slow computers.
- ICQ 5 introduced skins support. There are few official skins available for the current ICQ 5.1 at the official website; however, a number of user-generator skins have been made available for download.
- ICQ 6, released on April 17, 2007, is the first major update since ICQ 4. The user interface has been redesigned using Boxely, the same rendering engine used in AIM Triton. This change adds new features such as the ability to send IMs directly from the client's contact list. This version's sound clips were produced/augmented by the psychedelic trance duo Infected Mushroom. ICQ has recently started forcing users of v5.1 to upgrade to version 6. Those who do not upgrade will find their older version of ICQ do not start up. Although the upgrade to version 6 should be seen as a positive thing, some users may find that useful features such as sending multiple files at one time is no longer supported in the new version. At the beginning of July 2008, a network upgrade forced users to stop using ICQ 5.1 - applications that identified themselves as ICQ 5, such as Pidgin, were forced to identify themselves as ICQ 6. There seems to be no alternative for users other than using a different IM program or patching ICQ 5.1 with a special application.
In popular culture
, a short film about ICQ, was directed by Greg McLean
, who later wrote Wolf Creek
. The film was described by its writer as a mystery/drama, and it concerns a man who while surfing the ICQ network comes across a woman whose acquaintance he could well have done without. The relationship runs the gauntlet of intrigue through to the sinister. It was released in 2001. The short film took out the "Best Director" award in October 2001 at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival
. On return to his home soil in Australia, McLean's film was nominated for Best Sound Design (short film) for the prestigious AFI (Australian Film Institute
) awards in 2002.
ICQ also plays an important role in a Polish popular novel Samotność w sieci (Loneliness in the Net) as its main protagonists accidentally find each other in the Internet and, via ICQ, they develop a passionate feeling.
The famous high-pitch "Uh-oh!" was featured in the chorus of Prozzak's song, www.nevergetoveryou.
's OSCAR network protocol
used by ICQ is proprietary
, but a number of people have created more or less compatible, ICQ Terms of Service
violating third-party clients, by using reverse engineering and protocol descriptions available on the net. These Clients include:
- Adium: supports ICQ, Yahoo!, AIM, MSN, Google Talk, Jabber, and others, for Mac OS X
- Ayttm: supports ICQ, Yahoo!, AIM, MSN, IRC, and Jabber
- bitlbee: instant messaging gateway for IRC, supports ICQ, Yahoo!, AIM, MSN, Google Talk, and Jabber
- centericq: supports ICQ, Yahoo!, AIM, MSN, IRC and Jabber, text-based
- climm: text-based (formerly mICQ)
- Digsby: supports ICQ, AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, Google Talk, Jabber, and social networking updated for Windows
- Easy message: Small instant messaging service (250kb), supports MSN, AIM, ICQ, and Yahoo!.
- eBuddy: Web-based instant messaging client, supports MSN, AIM, Yahoo!, ICQ, Google Talk and MySpace Chat
- Fire: supports ICQ, Yahoo!, AIM, MSN, IRC, and Jabber, for Mac OS X
- iChat: Mac-only client, using ICQ's UIN as an AIM screenname.
- Kopete: supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, Jabber, Google Talk, IRC, Gadu-Gadu, Novell GroupWise Messenger, and more. For Unix/Linux.
- Licq: supports ICQ, AIM and MSN. For Unix/Linux.
- Meebo: Ajax-based, supports ICQ, AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, GoogleTalk and Jabber
- Meetro: IM and social networking combined with location; supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo!
- Miranda IM: plugin based, open source, supports ICQ, Yahoo!, AIM, MSN, IRC, Google Talk, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, BNet, and others. For MS Windows only.
- Naim: Minimal terminal program based on ncurses
- Pidgin (formerly Gaim): supports ICQ, Yahoo!, AIM, Gtalk, MSN, IRC, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, SILC, and others
- Proteus: supports ICQ, Yahoo!, Yahoo! Japan, AIM, MSN, Jabber and iChat Rendezvous, for Mac OS X
- QIP (Quiet Internet Pager): ICQ, AIM, and (partly) Jabber and XIMSS
- qutIM: Qt-library based cross-platform ICQ-client with user friendly interface.
- stICQ: supports ICQ, for Symbian OS
- Trillian: supports ICQ, Yahoo!, AIM, MSN, IRC, Google Talk, Jabber and others
AOL has recently begun making its ICQ software more AIM-like by adding AIM Smilies, as well as introducing cross AIM/ICQ communication. Users on ICQ are able to communicate with AIM users; however, such capability is in beta stages.