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The ICQ instant messaging service is shutting down for good on June 26


ICQ, an instant messaging service that was at one time very popular in the US and other parts of the world in the early days of the consumer PC internet, is officially closing up shop. The official ICQ site now has a message that says the service "will stop working on June 26".

ICQ was first launched in November 1996 by Israel-based Mirabilis. In a 2003 interview with the Israel21c website, one of the co-founders of the company, Yair Goldfinger, stated that he and two friends developed the idea for ICQ (which is supposed to stand for "I Seek You) in about two months, The father of Goldfinger decided to invest a few hundred thousand dollars to the group.

While the ICQ program was developed in Israel, the Mirabilis founders launched the service in a small apartment in San Jose, California, because, according to Goldfinger, internet access in the US was cheaper.

It didn't take long for ICQ to start becoming a popular PC app. After launching in November 1996 for free, ICQ had 850,000 users in May 1997, and by April 1998, the user base had grown to nine million, of which 2.5 million were using it every day.

It's easy to see why. ICQ focused on one-on-one chats rather than on chatting in groups, which you would find on services like AOL or even in IRC. ICQ certainly influenced other chat and messaging services like AIM, which launched about six months after ICQ,

Indeed, AIM's owner AOL eventually acquired Mirabilis and ICQ in June 1998 for $287 million, with an additional $120 million to be paid if certain goals were reached. By 2001, ICQ had reached a peak of 100 million registered users.

As the rise of other instant messaging services, and later social networks like Twitter and Facebook became more popular, many users in US and other parts of the world abandoned ICQ, In 2010 AOL sold off ICQ to Russia's Digital Sky Technologies, where the service was still popular, for $187 million.

The company was later renamed VK, and this week's shutdown announcement of ICQ recommended that users switch to either VK Messenger or VK WorkSpace. It's going to be a very quiet closing for ICQ, but it certainly had a huge effect on online messaging and communication that continues to influence other services.

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