ICQ is (or rather was) owned by Mirabilis
, a small Israel
i company, the name of which derived from the Latin
for "wonderful". Later in its life, Mirabilis was acquired by AOL Time Warner
, now merely Time Warner
. Many thought that this would be the beginning of the end
for ICQ, the start of a slow and painful death as AOL sought to embrace and extinguish one of its major competitors in the lucrative IM market.
Surprisingly, perhaps, this has not happened. I've been on ICQ for yonks now: I first joined the network when I was 9 or so and had an 8 digit UIN (and went by the name of Joebee B, the shame). I remember seeing it in action on my dad's first PC, and hearing and being terribly amused by the distinctive and extremely irritating "eh oh!" sound that heralds new messages. The quality of service has, I've noticed, gone up noticeably since then. AIM and ICQ users can now communicate with each other, which has led to ICQ having an even bigger reach among internet users. The client software has plenty of capability, and no longer looks as pig ugly as it did before (Windows XP users suffered for ages with this, as ICQ did not accept the XP theming abilities and defaulted back to a nasty variant of the Windows Classic theme). It can be used as an email client, a video chat program, a white pages and, of course, a top notch IM client. All in 4MB.
Certainly, ICQ seems to be the better IM network out of the big three (MSN, AIM, ICQ). ICQ doesn't seem to have so many of the script kiddie wannabees as AIM, and certainly less of the tweens that so plague MSN. Most of the people on ICQ are clued in, know their shit and are intelligent. That's not to say that there aren't intelligent people on MSN or AIM, just far less of them.
In any case, ICQs network is the only one which is truly international. A search through Random Chat is always revealing: you could be talking to someone in Slovakia, then someone from Bulgaria within a few minutes. I've met Americans, Austrians, Japanese people and Brits on ICQ, and if you want to chat to a large percentage of people around the world ICQ is the way to do it.
That's not to say ICQs perfect. The ad banners at the bottom of the windows are irritating, but easily ignored, and this is merely a blemish on a nice package. Sadly, people seem to be using MSN more after Microsoft's inclusion of MSN Messenger with Windows XP, and to that end ICQs days may be numbered after all. Still it's one of the better IM networks out there and one that should be tried by all at some point in their internet-using lives.