ICQ stops working on June 26th.

I remember the first day I found out about ICQ. My friend Nick told me about it in the library at Fairview Junior High, and he pulled off an absolutely masterful job of Hitchcock-style suspense (especially given that we were seventh graders). He refused to tell me what ICQ was, only saying, “It’s amazing. It’s incredible! I can’t explain it. You have find out for yourself.”

It drove me crazy. What was this thing? Artificial intelligence? A hover board? A rocket ship?! We didn’t have easy access to phones or computers where I could look it up. I spent the rest of the day hounding him for more information, but he closed up like a clam, and I only found out later that night from my dad’s PC.

Over the subsequent years it became a key part of my life. It’s where the relationship with my best friend was forged, and where I romanced my college girlfriend (yes, maybe a little embarrassing, but I’ll take it any day of the week over whatever TikTok shit Gen Z is doing now). I must’ve exchanged tens of thousands of messages over the ICQ network, and I’d probably type 10 WPM slower today if it’d never existed. The “uh oh!” sound effect is permanently burned into my brain.

Then Google Chat came along, and my recollection is that the novelty of chatting from your web browser was utterly irresistible (ironic, because now all I want chat anywhere but a web browser). Between that and MSN Messenger, it didn’t take long before my friends’ of ICQ plateaued, then dropped off precipitously. I’d stopped using the app early on, but for years I stayed signed into it using multi-network apps (remember when that was possible?) like Trillian and Adium. By the end I had only one or two other users that I’d ever see online.

A year or two ago I tried to get access to my ancient account, you know, for old time’s sake. I was unsuccessful. My old password didn’t work, and I’d lost access to whatever recovery email I’d been using long ago. The fact that I couldn’t get in didn’t matter at all, but I was still disappointed. It was one of the internet’s oldest services, and still operating. Truly legend. That last login failure was the definitive end of ICQ for me, but now it really is the end.

10412105. Never forget.

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