Today it became known that ICQ had been sold to the DST investment fund (Digital Sky Technologies). The today’s price of ICQ is much less than it was earlier. Does it mean that ICQ and instant messengers are not so popular in modern web? Today’s web trends show that social networks and microblogging services are turning into the main web services. Can their mechanisms substitute instant messengers? The deal between DST and AOL, the former ICQ owner, awakes any questions on web trends and development path of modern Internet.
ICQ is the first popular program for online communication. It was founded in the middle of 90’s by Israeli programmers and became popular all over the world very quickly.
In 1998 AOL company bought ICQ for $287 mln. Now DST it cost $187,5 mln. So, after 12 years ICQ’s price decreased $100 mln.
AOL announced the sale of ICQ in autumn, 2009. Some Russian, Chinese and Czech companies got interested in that deal. AOL tried to sell ICQ for $200-250 mln but, as you see, the final price was not so high.
So, what is the role of ICQ system and instant messengers on the modern web? Ten years ago ICQ was the most popular communication instrument. It was really innovative, unusual, trendy software. Later other instant messengers appeared, for example Yahoo messenger, AOL messenger, MSN messenger. The USA web-users prefer Yahoo and MSN and ICQ is the most popular in the post-USSR countries.
The appearance of other instant messengers, for instance, Skype and Google Talk, made the real revolution on the internet communication. Their facilities were more convenient, useful and unique. At the same time security specialists started talking about ICQ dangerous. As a result Jabber protocol became more popular as being safer one. The last version of ICQ native client was very “hard”, uncomfortable and it had too many ads. Moreover, ICQ owners were choosing its protocol very often. The consequences of those steps were inoperability of the alternative ICQ clients. For those reasons many users refused from ICQ. Other reasons of loss of ICQ popularity were indirect like some problems with ICQ copyright agreement.
Simultaneously, ICQ features were not developing but new and interesting Skype and Google Talk functions (voice messages, group chat, usage of web interface and so on) made them better choice than ICQ. Many experienced people substitute ICQ with other instant messengers. However service remained popular in Russia and Ukraine.
The new owner of ICQ, DST fund has already invested in Facebook, Mail.ru and other popular Internet companies. DST is interested in Chatroulette is also and offeres more than $25 mln. To his owner
Buying ICQ by DST may indicate the interest to the service of Mail.ru or Facebook. Mail.ru has its own instant messenger – Agent@Mail.ru. Now it is the most popular communication instrument on Russian Internet. Number of Russian users of ICQ is near 18 mln (all users make 44 mln), Mail.ru has 12 mln. So, Mail.ru might integrate ICQ into Agent@Mail.ru. It’s going to get new users and as a result – more ads revenues. What’s more, other Russian Internet companies (Yandex, Rambler) are the ICQ partners on Russian Internet market. As a result ICQ might have only one partner in Russia, and it will be Mail.ru.
On the other hand, DST owns Facebook, Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki shares. So, DST can integrate ICQ into social networks to make it more comfortable, especially for those users who start its internet communication with ICQ.
Some experts suppose that DST may start many paid features in ICQ as it does in Odnoklassniki. I disagree because many online free alternative exist.
I think the last variant is the most obvious. On modern web of online services and social networks the “stand-alone” program for communication is not as much interesting for many people especially for teens with their addictions to Facebook and Twitter. Mobile web traffic increases a great rate as people don’t use one gadget for internet access, they use home and work PC, laptops and netbooks, phones and smartphones, tablet PCs and iPad and to be continied… Browser is the main application in every computer. So, the installed application is the great example of non-usability.
People don’t need to install any application to communicate on Facebook while ICQ needs installation of many-megabyte program. Facebook communication needs only a browser, while ICQ talk needs hard and slow software. So, Facebook wins the war for internet communication market. Golden age of ICQ ended. Social networks are the best way of for communication.
In case ICQ presents its portable version or full online access, solve many security problems and other flaws. In this way it will probably achieve its old popularity. Still I think it’s impossible. People choose social networks and ICQ is in the past.