You can’t blame us for moving on, but the once-mighty ICQ is hardly a blip on the mobile radar. Back in its heyday, between 1996 and 2000, the service was used by millions and millions of people all over the world; that dissonant, sibilant “Uh-Oh” notification still haunts me to this very day.
After selling its assets off to the Russian web giant Mail.ru, ICQ disappeared for a few years, at least in North America. Still used quite extensively in its native Russia, the service is poised for a comeback in the rest of the world as it launches its first Android app. Already used by two million mobile users and available for iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Symbian devices, as well as natively on Windows and the mobile web, ICQ aims to be all things to all people: an instant message replacement tethered to a user’s address book (like WhatsApp) and a cross-platform IM manager for Facebook and Google Talk (like IM+, imo).
The app also plugs into your social feeds, allowing you to post to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. It’s not a very pretty app, using a very Gingerbread-like aesthetic, but it’s clean and simple, and with the contact list plugin, automatically finds users already with ICQ. You can also share photos and location between users independent of the service. If you’re already on the service, it might be a good idea to start using the Android app, but it’s not likely going to move users away from Kik, WhatsApp and the myriad other IM services millions are already using.
It’s interesting, though, how important an ICQ number was back in the day. I remember coveting my easy-to-remember account number, and people do the same with sequential BlackBerry PINs. Unfortunately the numbers for ICQ are a bit longer now — in the hundreds of millions — but each account still generates a unique, and shareable, set of digits.
Can ICQ for Android win you back, or are you sticking to what you know?