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Russian Company Buys ICQ 136

An anonymous reader writes "AOL has sold ICQ to Digital Sky Technologies (DST), Russia's largest Internet company, for US$187.5 million. DST's offer was apparently more attractive than those of Russia's ProfMedia and China's Tencent. ICQ, originally released in 1996 and bought by AOL in 1998 for US$407 million, was one of the world's first major instant messaging systems. Although largely forgotten in English-speaking countries, it remains widely popular in Central Europe, Russia, and Israel. Moscow News has additional coverage of the deal."
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Russian Company Buys ICQ

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  • Also widely popular among spammers.

    I still have my ICQ account (seven-digit UIN starting with 1, woo) but pretty much the only traffic it gets anymore is spammers trying to add me and trying to send me IMs. Trillian fortunately blocks the latter for me.

    • I've had the same experience. The only people I used to talk to on it have moved to other IM services, and now it's just the occasional spammer. I don't really know why I keep it logged in.

      My account's a 7-digit UIN starting with 9, haha. I must've had this account for around 10 years.

    • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

      I still have my ICQ account (seven-digit UIN starting with 1, woo)

      *yawn*, I have a six digit one starting with '2' I don't think it has received a valid non-spam message in three years ago.

      • by Scaba ( 183684 ) <joe@joefra n c> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:02PM (#32057014)

        *yawn*, I have a six digit one starting with '2' I don't think it has received a valid non-spam message in three years ago.

        double *yawn* I have a negative account number that's also an irrational number. I receive messages from the future.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          Mine ends in an i, its an imaginary number in the complex plane and I receive messages from another dimension.
        • I have my own enumeration constant so they can handle my account as a special case- with that 90% of the code that runs only 10% of the time.
        • Yawn, 6 digit starting with "1'

      • Mine is a 9-digit prime number. Do solicitations from Russian hookers count as spam or porn?
      • by xtracto ( 837672 )

        Haha, I think I have a 6 digit ICQ account as well... the bad thing is I do not remember my password.

        And now that we are talking about web-dong waving, My hotmail account was registered at:
          28 august 1997

        • by yotto ( 590067 )

          Not only do I not remember my password, I don't remember my user name, email, or any other identifying characteristics from my account. And I think it's a pretty low number because I remember signing up as soon as I heard about the service which easily could have been in 1996.

          Oh well, I guess I'm better off living the past dozen years or so without all that spam.

          • I have very limited memories... after so many years in a coma, upon regaining consciousness they had to teach me once again to speak, to walk, to eat, to log into my ICQ account.... unfortunately I never made a full recovery.
      • Yeah 6 digit ... but starting with 3 :(

    • Same here; it's pretty much a spam wasteland. I still have the account credentials in Pidgin, but disabled the account for the past 3 years because only spammers used it.

      I'll have to say this for ICQ though - their feature to store offline messages server-side was a feature far beyond what AIM had or even has now.

      My UID was 282026638. Funny how some numbers just stick in memory.

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      I have 2 accounts, one with a 6 digit uin and another with 8 digits - only the shorter one seems to get spammed...
      Using numbers its trivially easy to spam, simply increment then number to work out addresses... Perhaps they don't bother going all that high.

    • I haven't used ICQ in ages. It was the most important part of my life about 10-8 years ago but now not so much. I still remember my pw and UID which is 5600178. Not quite as low as your but it's my second one. That said I am certain my first UID was above 1,000,000. I, unfortunately, was not able to have net access as early as some and certainty not as early as when they were dialling into BBSes (I assume) on the "The facts of life" sitcom. Yes I am aware it is sad when you can remember early sitcom nerdine
    • I had a 6 digit UIN starting with 2 but I haven't used it in a few years. The guy that hacked my account is apparently still making use of it though. AOL absolutely refused to lock him out. Even though they had years of activity of me logging on from the same IP addresses in the US and having access to the old email account linked to the UIN they wouldn't reset the password and lock that clown out.
    • by Curtman ( 556920 ) *
      At least I still have my vendetta against the asshole who stole UIN 125359 from me, and my backup 492110.

      I don't remember my previous phone number though... Funny how that works.

      Seriously though, good riddance to you ICQ. The maximum password length for a long time was 6 alphanumeric characters. I hate you for stealing my contacts twice with a poorly designed authentication system, and no way to recover without access to a long since dead email account.
  • I am not surprised by who would buy it.

    • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:55PM (#32056956) Homepage

      Just so you know, the US is still the number 1 spam source, both by number of spam relays and origin of spammers. There was a recent Slashdot article on this, and you can also check the ROKSO list if you're interested. Don't be spewing that "but our poor PCs are controlled by evil Chinese/Russians/Europeans/Eritreans who use our unwilling innocent users' PCs in their botnets" crap either. Most of the top 100 on the ROKSO list are American citizens.

      Clean up your own backyard before you decide to make snarky comments about the Russians and Chinese. Yes, we know, they hate your freedom and they want to eat your babies, but nonetheless, try to stay factual.

      • Absurd, good sir.

        America's culture of freedom and individual responsibility has made it a hotbed of unconventional electronic marketing entrepreneurs.

        Godless elsewhereistan's degenerate criminality makes it a hive of spammer scum.

        Get the Facts(tm)!
      • >they want to eat your babies
        Nah, the days of holodomor are long gone

      • by Trogre ( 513942 )

        That may be so, but nearly all ICQ spam I receive contains links to websites ending with .ru

      • He's talking about spam on ICQ, not email spam. I was thinking about killing my ICQ transport soon. I only know two people who still use ICQ / AIM, but I get a spam message Russian containing a .ru domain name every few hours via it.
    • by mrmeval ( 662166 )

      Now that a company there owns it the quality of the spam may actually improve and the volume decrease. It seems that way with LJ. Hell I'd pay them for my ICQ account if A) I got no spam B) I got preferential treatment when they have to clobber people off their servers.

  • I still use ICQ (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Ark42 ( 522144 )
    I still use some OLD version of ICQ on Windows 7, because I never found another client that behaves as nicely. All the 3rd party stuff I've tried either failed to connect to the ICQ servers or failed basic features like file transfer or the ability to communicate with AIM screen-names from an ICQ account. Also, this ICQ client still has no ads and never pops up a chat screen overtop of anything else I'm doing. I frickin hate it when those other clients steal window focus even when you're typing in an unrela
    • Have you checked out Pidgin []? Also, think you could email a copy of the installer to me? I absolutely loved the customization features on the Mirabillis clients.

      • by iYk6 ( 1425255 )

        Hey buddy. Check this out: []
        They've got versions for Windows 3.11

      • by Feyr ( 449684 )

        pidgin is nice, but it has one of the worst notification system around. either it's focus-stealing or not notifying you at all of new messages

        • by kyrio ( 1091003 )

          When was the last time you used the program?

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by toxickitty ( 1758282 )
            I don't know when s/he last used it but I am using it right now (version 2.6.6) and it still does all of what Feyr said ~~
            • What OS? When I stopped using it on Windows (2.2 or so) it wasn't focus-stealing, and hadn't been since it was gaim. (I stopped because it's just too kludgy overall. I gave up on GUI IM clients and went with irssi+bitlbee. It does what I want it to - always connected , send and receive text messages, and irssi is second-to-none as an IRC client.)
        • The linux version, and presumably all versions, allow you to have it flash the tray icon on new messages. It will keep flashing until you focus the message.

          Also there is the "Hide new message windows" option. That will leave the a program list item flashing instead, at least on gnome. And updates don't take focus in the first place.

          Cracks me up when a problem not only doesn't exist, but you have multiple other choices.

    • by Marc_Hawke ( 130338 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:35PM (#32056808)

      At least the ICQ style.

      ICQ assumes multi-line messages. (No "send-on-enter" crap.)
      ICQ has had offline-messages from the beginning.
      ICQ always kept message history.

      Those are the biggest two, but there are a bunch of other things that ICQ did right when the other IM companies did it wrong.

      AIM and MSN started out as 'super private IRC'. It behaves the same as the input line on an IRC channel.

      ICQ though is more like 'super fast email'. ICQ is a 'low overhead email', like Verizon's "Push To Talk" is a low overhead Cell Phone call.

      However, I admit that it's pretty much dead. The only people left that I still talk to are the same people I talked to back in 1998. All my family and 'new' friends are using a bunch of different networks. That's why I use a multi-network client (Miranda right now.).

      JABBER is the future though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

        ICQ assumes multi-line messages. (No "send-on-enter" crap.)

        Most clients allow you to configure Ctrl-Enter as submit shortcut. Then enter does create new lines.
        Or if not possible, you can use Ctrl-Enter for multi-line messages, and Enter to submit. But it's hard and annoying.
        And obviously, MSN is the exception, as its users would not have the mental capacity to imagine wanting something like that in the first place.

        But unfortunately, this does not protect you from the retards
        their ;)))
        preppr spelng.

        Luckily, there

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

        Oh, I forgot to mention:
        It’s wrong that ICQ is mostly dead. It’s mostly dead where you live. But luckily far from it everywhere else. :)
        I know children and teens who use ICQ. Some weren’t even alive when ICQ started.
        But it comes down to if their older friends and family used ICQ back then.

        Also: Jabber is now called XMPP, as far as I know. (I would have preferred it to be lightweight EBML instead of overhead monster XML.)

        • > Also: Jabber is now called XMPP, as far as I know. (I would have preferred it to be lightweight EBML instead of overhead monster XML.)

          Jabber and XMPP are absolutely horrible, probably one of the most insanely byzantine protocols ever conceived, and they keep expanding it all the time (by now there are *hundreds* of extensions to the protocol).

          The inept use of XML [] is just the tip of the iceberg, and it is not even real XML, but *streamed* XML, which means parsers need to be even more complicated (as if

      • Absolutely agree - ICQ is a dead end, that's why the price is going down. Some big Russian companies like has already switch to Jabber. Soon or later ICQ will be dead.
      • I'm not sure if I would call it super fast email. ICQ has multi-user chat which was awesome and the AIM, MSN, etc came about and they did not have functionality at first. TBH, I only moved away from MSN because of my frineds who went to MSN. If it weren't completely useless minus friends I would go to Google Talk / ICQ but no one really uses those.
      • by DrXym ( 126579 )
        ICQ may have done some things right, but it did the most fundamental and visible thing wrong - turned people into numbers. That shit might be acceptable for the 100+ year old telephone system, but not an IM system.

        The second thing it did wrong was allow itself to be bought by AOL. It may have been a lucrative move for Mirabilis but it consigned ICQ to playing second banana to AIM. Its surprising ICQ lasted so long since AOL bought and subsequently neglected Compuserve in similar circumstances but it didn'

    • Trillian Astra: []

      -Stays connected
      -Supports file transfer
      -Communicates with AIM from ICQ
      -No ads
      -Multiple options for what happens with new chat windows (show on desktop, show minimized, hide and notify via systray, with an additional "always show on top" toggle)

      All ICQ-specific features: []

      • -No ads

        Except for when they constantly popup those little "toast" messages telling you to buy the iPhone version, or to ask you to vote for them in some "best of whatever" competitions.
        Don't get me wrong, I like Trillian enough that i paid for the pro version, but they still do some very annoying things.

        Also their xmpp support is very lacking. No bookmarks, and it leaves you disconnected from any chat rooms after it reconnects to the server when disconnected.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Which magical ICQ version are you using? I wish I could still use ICQ98 which didn't have ads, but I think the minimum that will even connect to the current servers is version 2003+

      • One of the first things I would do on a Windows install was to put a rule in the firewall that C:\Program Files\ICQ\ICQ.exe couldn't access Even before the program was installed.
        If it couldn't get to the ad server it couldn't even get the first set of ads. Just an awful looking white box at the bottom of every message window.
        Beat a flashing/changing ad by a mile though.
    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      But does anyone else at this point?

      its day has come and gone.. partially due to the ads and unstable clients. But no, no one will learn from those mistakes.

      • by xtracto ( 837672 )

        Believe it or not, a couple (maybe 3) weeks ago I saw a *TV* ad for ICQ. This is a German TV channel. Now, I don't remember what they were advertizing but my reaction was "wow, are Germans still using ICQ in 2010!?". Granted, in this part of Germany (ex-eastern region still heavily depopulating) they still have some retrograd customs.

      • I always thought the main reason for its decline was the use of sequential numbers as public IDs, making it easy for spammers to find new targets by brute force. AIM and MSN had ads yet remained popular.

  • Largely forgotten by the Slashdot demographic maybe - but that tiny and self selected slice of the demographic pie is hardly representative.

  • huh-oh

    (or however you would transliterate the sound of receiving a message)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:26PM (#32056748)


  • IIRC, the only private information put into your ICQ account was your password. Anything else was public. If you are a dope and use the same passwords for everything, then you probably have concerns. Other than that, I cannot think of any. But it is in Russia, and there are plenty of stories about what happens once your information gets there.

    But more concerning is the potential disconnect from the Oscar protocol. In short, will ICQ and AIM be able to communicate together still, and will ICQ remain usi

    • I started using ICQ back in... 1995? I think, anyway around then with an 8 digit UIN starting with 12

      I joined in late 1997 with a 7-digit number starting with 6, so with an 8 digit number you can't have joined before 1998. You definitely didn't join in 1995 - the service wasn't launched until 1996.

      • by LoadWB ( 592248 )

        Makes sense. The whole period between 1995 and 1998 is a mostly blur to me. I moved from BBSing on my 128D to the Amiga, then got hold of TermiteTCP and got online (aside from GEnie) via one of the local BBS's TCP/IP door. Once college offered dial-up Internet I was on-line thereafter pretty much 24/7. Then I discovered IRC, that was it for me. Not a quantum leap for me after having been in the ill-fated Q-Link rooms for years until the abrupt shutdown in 1994.

        Although, I would say it might have been l

  • Technical details? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Phroggy ( 441 ) <.moc.yggorhp. .ta. .3todhsals.> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:03PM (#32057020) Homepage

    How does this affect things like being able to sign into AIM using an ICQ number, and adding ICQ numbers to your AIM buddy list?

  • by Beelzebud ( 1361137 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:34PM (#32057294)
    In Soviet Russia, Q seeks I.
    • Actually, QCX (read the last as greek letter Chi - which I've always been told is the K sound followed by long I sound)
  • by darkpixel2k ( 623900 ) <> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:12PM (#32057656) Homepage

    AOL has sold ICQ to Digital Sky Technologies (DST), Russia's largest Internet company, for US$187.5 million.

    I connect to ICQ using Pidgin. I also connect to GTalk and a few XMPP servers using Pidgin. The XMPP server software is running on some version of Linux--probably Ubuntu or Debian. It was free to download, free to setup, and free to use. HOW THE #$*@# IS ICQ WORTH $187.5 MILLION?!?!.

    Is the Windows ICQ client really a direct pipe for advertisers to watch your web surfing habits or turn on and view your webcam at random or something? How in the hell can you buy an instant messaging company for $187.5 million now-a-days? IM clients and servers are free.

    • Pedos use ICQ and Pedo buy a lot of stuff online?
    • You're not buying the software, you're buying the customers who are locked into a proprietary system by network effects. Not sure how many people are on ICQ now. Statistics I read eight years ago were about 6 million active users. I wouldn't be surprised now if it's under $10/customer, which isn't bad for an advertising platform.
      • You're not buying the software, you're buying the customers who are locked into a proprietary system by network effects. Not sure how many people are on ICQ now. Statistics I read eight years ago were about 6 million active users. I wouldn't be surprised now if it's under $10/customer, which isn't bad for an advertising platform.

        Right--but those 6 million customers need to have some sort of value. That's why I asked if the Windows client was some sort of ad-ridden piece of garbage. Using Pidgin on Linux I've never seen an ad. I occasionally get some sort of russian spam, it's once or twice a month. How the hell do they get that multi-million dollar figure? How are those users actually worth that much? In other words, if this new russian company liquidated 'ICQ', where would that money come from?

        • A lot of users put other information in their vcard, and the contact lists are now stored server-side (they were client-side in the early ICQ clients, which meant that I lost mine a couple of times when hard drives failed), so you can build up a lot of information about how users are connected. Messages are all sent through the server now, so you can data mine them too. All of this has a lot of value to advertisers.
  • Their hackers have stolen most of the older ICQ numbers (mine included)

  • by Neoprofin ( 871029 ) <> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:00PM (#32058068)
    The Germans seem to love it as well. I was living with a number of masters students and I was absolutely shitting bricks to here them talk about a program that I thought was completely wiped from the face of the earth a decade ago by MSN and AIM/Google.

    It's moved on a lot from what it used to be, I think it might even support instant messaging now. Sad because the only thing I ever liked about it was that you leave people messages when they weren't online, sort of a hybrid email/chat.
  • ICQ was killed by microsoft's o/s monopoly just like netscape. since messenger started to be pushed in windows installations, icq users dwindled speedily. soon we were left to a group of 'elite' people, who were there before instant messengers first came out, while the masses were on messenger. due to business needs, we eventually had to migrate to messenger. most of us hated it, and we still hate it. thankfully googletalk came, but it is still relatively unknown.

    i very much think eu should slap ms with
    • I would rather much see the requirement for networks (all of them) to interoperate. There's no technical reason why an ICQ user shouldn't be able to send and receive messages to MSN or AOL users - the servers would need to federate, but there's nothing magical or even particularly hard about it. And, heck, it already worked for ICQ and AOL - now if we could just get Yahoo and Live to do that as well, and expose it all via XMPP...

  • What's 187.5 million for a dead IM network ? :P

    I was one of the early ICQ users in the 90s, 6-digit UID, yadda yadda. It was ground-breaking for the time, but that time has come and gone. Everyone I know moved to MSN Messenger, and ICQ pretty much died overnight.

    Me, I don't even bother with IM anymore. If I had a business use for it, I'd be fine, but for just keeping in touch with friends I'm quite content with Facebook and that century-old tech the telephone.

  • i was reminded of ICQ when google first showed of wave. This largely because ICQ had two ways to show conversations. Either the now typical way with each line showing up in a common window. Or one where each character typed would be sent across so the other side could see you type in near real time. It also had keyboard sound effects, iirc.

  • In Soviet Messaging, I seek YOU!

    Oh, wait...

  • I guess, I'm not very social, I kept my MySpace site for only some month. I'm in keeping my mostly inactive LinkedIn account alive strictly for business networking.

    But even I have to chat, when email is overhead or not possible! I knew instant messaging back at univeristy since 1994 by virtue of IRC and the chat facility of ICS (internet chess, does it still exist btw?). I think joined ICQ somewhere in 1998 or 1999 because "everyone did it", but had not much use for it. The ICQ client then was quite decent.

  • Of course the russians would want to buy out the main staple of their spamware enterprise. seriously, if someone else had bought it, and sent out malicious updates that contained malware, imagine the botnet of botnets they cold have created, hey....wait a minute....

  • ... so the real reason behind the purchase is to incorporate ICQ into junk like Mafia Wars, and all the other FACEB00C games that they control, and use it as an off FACEB00C's record communications device to take over Mafia World. ... or something like that.

    Uh-oh!, indeed.

    Time to deactivate my UIN.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"