ICQ, the Legendary Messaging App, is Shutting Down on June 26th

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Key Takeaways

  • VK is shutting down ICQ on June 26th.
  • The chat app was extremely popular in the early internet era.
  • The modern app struggled to compete against WhatsApp, Telegram, and other rivals.

VK is shutting down ICQ, one of the pioneers in messaging apps, on June 26th.

The Russian firm instead pointed users toward its self-branded apps, including VK Messenger and VK WorkSpace.

Israeli firm Mirabilis founded ICQ in 1996. AOL bought it in 1998, and it surged in popularity to reach roughly 100 million users, as The Verge noted. It was one of the first examples of a robust chat app as the internet reached the mainstream. Some of its quirks, such as its number-based contact system (41116086 here) and signature sounds (like the “uh-oh” for a new message) endeared it to users long after they moved elsewhere.

ICQ lost momentum as the internet changed and rivals grew in popularity. AOL Instant Messenger and Microsoft’s MSN Messenger variants were the main threat during ICQ’s heyday, but the service faced even greater threats in the 2010s as WhatsApp, Facebook’s Messenger, and direct messages in social media (such as Twitter) dominated online conversations.

AOL sold ICQ to Russia’s Digital Sky Technologies (the owner of what would become VK) in 2010. The messaging app evolved over the years, and became more of a direct competitor to modern-day equivalents with features like channels and video calling.

ICQ shutting down may be more of a formality. The Android and iOS apps left their respective digital stores months ago. Nonetheless, this is likely to be a sad moment for some long-time internet users. ICQ was a staple of communication among youth at a time when they were first getting online in large numbers. It will be missed, even if it has long since been replaced.