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Instant messaging service ICQ is shutting down after 27 years
June 17, 2024

Instant messaging service ICQ is shutting down after 27 years

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The end of an internet era.

One of the oldest, still-running online platforms is finally closing its doors after 27 years. ICQ, a once-popular instant messaging service, announced on Friday via its website that it would be shutting down next month. 

‘ICQ will stop working from June 26,’ reads a message on ‘You can chat with friends in VK Messenger, and with colleagues in VK WorkSpace.’

The alternative recommendations are messaging platforms belonging to VK, a Russia-based social media platform popular in the country and works much like Facebook. VK acquired ICQ in 2010 from AOL, which had bought the service in 1998.

The first of the instant messengers 

ICQ is considered one of, if not the earliest instant messaging service on the internet. 

The platform, named after the phrase ‘I Seek You,’ was developed by a small Israeli company named Mirabilis and launched in November 1996. ICQ predates other popular IM services like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) which became synonymous with the instant messaging space.

From the mid-90s up until the aughts, instant messaging services reigned supreme on the internet. Services like AIM, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger backed by the online tech giants of the time, served as one of the the prime ways in which internet users interacted before social media.

However, despite these big competitors, ICQ caught on among the early adopters of the internet. In 1998, its biggest rival, AOL acquired the company for an upfront payment of $287 million, followed by an additional $120 million over three years based on the services’ performance. 

In 2001, AOL announced that ICQ had grown to over 100 million users. However, in the following years, the accessibility and access of social media apps like Facebook on mobile phones greatly cut into the IM market share. Instant messenger usage waned as users moved on to platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. 

The end of IM

Of the previously mentioned IM platforms, MSN Messenger was the first to close in 2014, followed by AIM in 2017, and Yahoo Messenger in 2018. But, ICQ survived.

AOL sold the service to VK in 2010 for $187.5 million where it continued to serve a dedicated user base. According to VK, there were roughly 11 million ICQ users in 2022.

ICQ long enjoyed a healthy user base outside of the U.S., which likely helped keep it afloat much longer than its contemporaries. The service used ICQ numbers to identify users, along with the customary username, which helped its popularity in countries like China. In addition, Hong Kong residents flocked to ICQ in 2021 after users dropped WhatsApp due to a change in the platform’s privacy policy. Due to VK’s ownership, ICQ also had a large Russian user base.

However, there were signs that VK was planning to sunset the platform. ICQ’s mobile apps disappeared from Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store around 2022. ICQ was still accessible via its web-based platform and its desktop apps. However, those apps were last updated over a year ago.

Of course, 27 years is quite the run. However, with ICQ’s demise, it does appear the age of instant messaging is officially dead. With that said, ICQ’s official account on X appears to be having fun in its final days…or perhaps even hinting at something new in the future. 

Tweet may have been deleted

The @ICQ account published two posts containing GIFS from the movie Terminator 2 on Friday shortly after the closure announcement.

The account’s final post? Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infamous line, ‘I’ll be back.’

Tweet may have been deleted


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