Long long time ago there used to be a program called ICQ. It was fast to cook and good to eat..
err.. I mean easy to use and the chat client of the late 90s. This is before Yahoo! and MSN had launched their messengers, a time when ICQ ruled roost along with AOL messenger. The latter was popular only within the US of A but the former had a much wider, worldwide “fan following”- and, no, not just geeks, though having a UIN (Unique Identification Number?) as the “user-name” was a bit geeky alright. Having a 7 digit or shorter UIN meant you’d been around a while. Mine was (is) a not to shabby 8 digit one, a “smaller” one at that.
I think the coolness/ geekiness of the UIN could be summarized by this formula where n represents the no. of digits in the UIN:
Geekiness = 108-n
And then of course AOL bought ICQ and killed it off for all practical purposes, making it too “bloated” for any useful use. Yahoo! and MSN had launched their messengers and they started to take off round about the same time. They had much lesser features than ICQ – I really liked ICQ’s “send url” (which would get automatically bookmarked for you to visit later) and “send contacts”, neither of which I have seen duplicated in Yahoo!. But I guess most people (including me) preferred a chat client that was “light” (ICQ lite was a good attempt, though maybe too-little too-late), fast and reliable (“unable to send message” errors in ICQ anyone?). Also I’m sure people prefer having an email id that doubles up as a chat id in place of a number. More importantly your friends, family and business contacts are more likely to remember you as firstname.lastname@example.org rather than 5287129413 (don’t bug this poor UIN, just some random one). The fact that people remember others’ phone numbers withstanding – point is with email and IM merging, it was an effort most people could live without doing.
I still log on to ICQ every once in a while – read that as when I am very very bored, or when someone specifically asks me to do it, like was the case a few minutes back, which is what sparked this little piece. I hardly ever find anyone on my list online. I don’t know of anyone who uses ICQ uses as their primary chat client, though I’m not discounting the existence of such souls completely.
It’s sad that instead of building on ICQ’s popularity, AOL choose to let it die in favour of, I presume, it’s own AOL messenger which hasn’t really become anywhere near as popular as ICQ was with the international users.
In a tribute to this Ent let us post our UINs below.
Trying to forget tomorrow and all that’s happened,
This is not the way, the way I was meant to be.
Slipping away, I think I’m gonna crack…
Misplaced trust, loyalty stabbed in the gut.