For other uses of ICQ, see ICQ (disambiguation).
Initial release November 15, 1996 (1996-11-15)
Stable release
10.0 Build 12094 / June 27, 2016 (2016-06-27)
Operating system Microsoft Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Symbian, Linux
Type client
License Proprietary (Adware), Linux version under Apache license 2.0
Website Official website

ICQ is an open source instant messaging computer program that was first developed and popularized by the Israeli company Mirabilis in 1996. The name ICQ derives from the English phrase "I Seek You".[1] Ownership of ICQ passed from Mirabilis to AOL in 1998, and from AOL to Mail.Ru Group in 2010.

The ICQ client application and service were initially released in November 1996 and the client was freely available to download. Users could register an account and would be assigned a number, like a phone number, for others to be able to contact them (users could also provide handles). ICQ was the first stand-alone instant messenger and the first online instant messenger service as such — while real-time chat was not in itself new to the internet (IRC being the most common platform at the time), the concept of a fully centralized service with individual user accounts focused on one-on-one conversations set the blueprint for later instant messaging services like AIM, and its influence is seen in modern social media applications.

At its peak around 2001, ICQ had more than 100 million accounts registered.[1] At the time of the Mail.Ru acquisition in 2010, there were around 42 million daily users.[2] Since 2013 ICQ has 11 million monthly users.[3]


Additional products

ICQ provides all users additional services and content products:

  1. ICQ TV—An online video magazine. The magazine broadcasts content for teens 24/7.
  2. ICQ SIM Card (together with United Mobile)—A SIM card that enables users traveling across Europe to use their cellular telephone while paying a discount price.
  3. ICQ Game Center—By clicking a button in the contact list, the game center is available for users. A games platform that enables the user to play with and/or against other users.
  4. ICQ2Go—A web instant messaging option for users who cannot download the program onto their computer or use it on the network they are accessing (for various reasons, like security restrictions or firewalls).
  5. ICQ for Mac[4] (Beta)—Released in February 2010, a version of the client that was developed using the Adobe AIR platform, making it usable on additional operating systems which support the AIR runtime, such as Linux.

Also, users can choose and select their own avatar for their profile page. In this way, they can protect their privacy.


ICQ users are identified and distinguished from one another by UIN, or User Identification Numbers, distributed in sequential order. The UIN was invented by Mirabilis, as the user name assigned to each user upon registration. Issued UINs started at '10,000' (5 digits) and every user receives a UIN when first registering with ICQ. As of ICQ6 users are also able to log in using the specific e-mail address they associated with their UIN during the initial registration process. Unlike other instant messaging software or web applications, on ICQ the only permanent user info is the UIN, although it is possible to search for other users using their associated e-mail address or any other detail they have made public by updating it in their account's public profile. In addition the user can change all of his or her personal information, including screen name and e-mail address, without having to re-register. Since 2000 ICQ and AIM users are able to add each other to their contact list without the need for any external clients. As a response to UIN theft or sale of attractive UINs, ICQ started to store email addresses previously associated with a UIN.[5] As such UINs that are stolen can sometimes be reclaimed. This applies only if (since 1999 onwards) a valid primary email address was entered into the user profile.


The founding company of ICQ, Mirabilis, was established in June 1996 by five Israelis: Yair Goldfinger, Sefi Vigiser, Amnon Amir, Arik Vardi, and Arik's father Yossi Vardi.[6] They recognized that many people were accessing the internet through non-UNIX operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, and those users were unfamiliar with established chat technologies, e.g. IRC.

The technology Mirabilis developed for ICQ was distributed free of charge. The technology's success encouraged AOL to acquire Mirabilis on June 8, 1998, for $287 million up front and $120 million in additional payments over three years based on performance levels.[7] At the time this was the highest price ever paid to purchase an Israeli technology company. In 2002 AOL successfully patented the technology.[8]

After the purchase the product was initially managed by Ariel Yarnitsky and Avi Shechter. ICQ's management changed at the end of 2003. Under the leadership of the new CEO, Orey Gilliam,[9] who also assumed the responsibility for all of AOL's messaging business in 2007, ICQ resumed its growth; it was not only a highly profitable company, but one of AOL's most successful businesses. Eliav Moshe replaced Gilliam in 2009 and became ICQ's managing director.[10]

In April 2010, AOL sold ICQ to Digital Sky Technologies, headed by Alisher Usmanov, for $187.5 million.[11] While ICQ was displaced by AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, and other competitors in the U.S. and many other countries over the 2000s, it remained the most popular instant messaging network in Russian-speaking countries, and an important part of online culture.[12] Popular UINs demanded over 11,000 rubles in 2010.[12]

In September of that year, Digital Sky Technologies changed its name to Mail.Ru Group. Since the acquisition, Mail.ru has invested in turning ICQ from a desktop client to a mobile messaging system. As of 2013, around half of ICQ’s users were using its mobile apps, and in 2014, the number of users began growing for the first time since the purchase.[2]

In March 2016 the source code of the client was released under the Apache license released on github.com.[13][14]

Development history

ICQ's original logo (1999 - 2014)


According to security analyst Jeffrey Carr, use of ICQ may cause security problems because it was purchased by Russian investment company Digital Sky Technologies. ICQ has fallen out of fashion in the US and the UK, but it remains popular in Eastern Europe and Russia. Carr says the new ownership may be used by Russia's powerful secret service, the FSB (formerly the KGB) since Russian law, like the American law, requires ICQ to open its logs whenever they want.[16] Similar concerns apply to other instant messengers (see Skype security, YIM SPIM, AIM vulnerabilities etc.).

When accepting "ICQ Privacy Policy" (2011), a user gives all the copyright in the posted information to ICQ Inc.[17] This implies that ICQ Inc. may publish, distribute etc. any messages sent through the system that could be meant to be private:

Please be aware that any information you may have published in a public area (Public Area) may be accessible to ICQ or third parties and used by ICQ or such third parties. Therefore carefully consider whether you wish such information to be accessible. Public areas may include your user profile (depending on the level of your privacy settings) any blogs, message boards, forums or similar services made available through the ICQ Services.

ICQ accounts may be deleted by user. The web page no longer functions, giving "Invalid ICQ UIN, email address, or password. Please fill out the form again" error.

Pressure on alternative clients

AOL pursued an aggressive policy regarding alternative ("unauthorized") ICQ clients.

"Системное сообщение

ICQ не поддерживает используемую вами версию. Скачайте бесплатную авторизованную версию ICQ с официального web-сайта ICQ.

System Message

The version you are using is not supported by ICQ. Download a free authorized ICQ version from ICQ’s official website."

On icq.com[20] there is an "important message" for Russian-speaking ICQ users: "ICQ осуществляет поддержку только авторизированных версий программ: ICQ Lite и ICQ 6.5." ("ICQ supports only authorized versions of programs: ICQ Lite and ICQ 6.5.")


AOL's OSCAR network protocol used by ICQ is proprietary and using a third party client is a violation of ICQ Terms of Service, nevertheless a number of third-party clients have been created by using reverse-engineering and protocol descriptions. These clients include:

AOL supported clients include:

See also


  1. 1 2 ICQ Surpasses 100 Million Registered Users, Time Warner Press Release - May 09, 2001 (accessed 2015-05-12).
  2. 1 2 Khrennikov, Ilya (29 July 2014), "ICQ Messenger Is Growing for the First Time in Years", Bloomberg Business
  3. ICQ 11 million users in the world per month, 8 November 2015
  4. ICQ for Mac
  5. icq.com
  6. An artist for the high-tech age
  7. "America Online to Buy Internet Chat Service for $287 Million". New York Times. June 9, 1998.
  8. "BBC NEWS | Technology | AOL wins instant messaging case". news.bbc.co.uk. December 19, 2002. Retrieved 2010-03-31.
  9. Haner, Lior (Jun 7, 2006). "ICQ, the fashion house Company to enter TV messaging and appliances too". Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  10. Schütz, Anja. "Why ICQ is so successful in Germany" (in German). NetMediaEurope Germany. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  11. "AOL sells ICQ to Russian internet company". Financial Times. April 28, 2010. Archived from the original on April 30, 2010.
  12. 1 2 Kovalev, Alexey (3 May 2010), "Why ICQ is so important to Russia", Wired
  13. Messeneger ICQ has opened the source code
  14. icqdesktop on github.com
  15. "ICQ". File Horse. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  16. "Russian spooks could claim web chat for themselves". Retrieved 2010-07-15.
  17. "ICQ Privacy Policy — Acceptable Use Policy"
  18. Официальное заявление ICQ: использовать QIP — опасно (in Russian)
  19. AOL Engaged in Dubious Competition Practices for ICQ in Russia
  20. icq.com
Wikimedia Commons has media related to ICQ.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/29/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.