On June 8, 1998 America Online purchased Israel based Mirabilis, developers of the popular ICQ pager/chat program. What follows is a look back at the hysteria surrounding that acquisition and the predictions made for the future of ICQ under AOL's control. The messages displayed on this page are a sampling of the hundreds of posts made in Mirabilis's public message forums. Despite the overwhelming negative tone of messages, to Mirabilis's credit they did not censor anyone's posts, in fact, as of this writing seven months later, the posts remain online.

Revisted yet again in February 2002, all comments in green text are updates.

 Took The Money And Ran?

One of the most common themes heard after the announcement of Mirabilis's sale to AOL for $287 million was that ICQ's developers had sold out. A few examples...

  • I am very unhappy about the buy out of Mirabilis to AOL.. There's only one reason for this and one alone the almighty $$$!!!
  • I too am disappointed that you have gone to bed with AOL. ... Too bad you felt the need to sell out.
  • One can't fault ICQ for merging/selling... it's good marketing strategy.. and excellent for them... but they sold out their supporters.
  • Money, funny what it will do to people.
  • Well you finally gone and done the most hideious thing to your loyal users. Sold out to one of the worlds most mistrusted companies.
  • To Mirabilis with tons of loathing and hatred... You have sold out. You let us all down. You have let youselves be bought out (or whatever you wish to call it) by AOL.
  • But hey, who could argue with all those millions of dollars? What wouldn't you do for all those millions?
  • We all need to understand, many decisions are made with one thing in mind, MONEY, not the users wishes.

I can understand why many people would feel this way, but I have to disagree that personal wealth was the MAIN REASON that the company was sold. That $287 million didn't all go straight into ICQ's creators' pockets. Mirabilis was founded by private investors who undoubtedly got their share and then part of what was left went right back into the company. That is something many people don't seem to realize, ICQ isn't run out of some guy's bedroom on a PC, it is world-wide network of high-speed servers and routers that has to handle up to 800,000 simultaneous users during peak usage periods. And that number continues to grow everyday. Take a look at this chart showing the number of UINs that have been issued since ICQ's start-up. Yair Goldfinger, ICQ's Chief Technical Officer, bet the founders that they never get past 5,000 users... guess who owes the rest of the team a free dinner? Normally runaway growth would be a good thing for a company since more subscribers means more income. But that isn't the case with Mirabilis, they have never charged anyone a dime. So to keep-up with the rapid growth they had to continually ask their private backers for more money to pay for additional servers and support staff. From the start the ICQ community has said "keep it free" but it has never been "free"... someone had to pay for it. It's simply unrealistic to expect private investors to continue to pour millions of dollars into a company that wasn't bringing in a cent. Yes, money was a factor in the sale of Mirabilis, but it wasn't to make the developers rich, it was to keep the company alive. The fact is if Mirabilis didn't find a new source of income in a hurry they wouldn't be around today. So where are all those millions of dollars going to come from?

By the end of 2001, ICQ had nearly 117 million users worldwide with one new registrant added every second.

 Pass The Hat For Good Ol' Mirabilis

Prior to the AOL announcement there was always one thing that most ICQers seemed to be able to agree on: they were not about to pay for ICQ. And who could blame them? ICQ isn't the only game in town, there are plenty of free alternatives... Excite PAL, Ding!, Yahoo Pager, EGN, PowWow, even Instant Messenger from you know who. Yet the moment the sale to AOL was announced the generous would-be donors came out of the woodwork...

  • I would have been willing to pay Mirabilis to use ICQ. I will never be willing to pay AOL to use ICQ.
  • If it came down to paying, I would have had no misgivings giving Mirabilis money for the program. But AOL? Not likely.
  • I would have given an annual fee to ICQ also to help them staff and maintain what grew so large so quickly by virtue of the fact that it was NOT owned by AOL, AT&T, or Microsoft.
  • I am apalled that Mirabilis did not give US the chance to pay, before they climbed in bed with AOL and started counting their cash. You guys are morons and I am disgusted with this decision.
  • All you would have had to do is ask for a paltry $5.00 per person per year for your service and used said money to upgrade your equipment ALONE, not owned by some scum-ridden corporation. I would have gladly paid it and almost every other person in the world would have done so as well.
  • And to think... All they would have had to do is ask, and support would have come pouring out from the adoring users.
  • Why didn't you ask your millions of happy customers to pay a fee. I would have gladly done that.

Actually, someone did ask. A poll taken 1997 asked the ICQ community how they felt about paying a fee for ICQ and 92% were against it. I wonder if the 8% who said they would be willing to pay would have continued to think ICQ was worth the price after nine out of ten people on their contact list switched to a different service? It's the millions of people who use ICQ that make it such a useful product, lose a significant number of them or make it difficult for new people to join and ICQ loses much of its value. As I've said many times before, what's the point of having a contact list without contacts on it? There are other reasons why fee models are impractical. For example, roughly half of the ICQ community resides outside of the United States, so you have to factor in exchange rates when setting a price. Then there is method of payment, not everyone has a credit card. Even if Mirabilis only charged a $1 a year, it is still a hassle for many people to send in a payment. And what do you think they would demand in return for their dollar? Perfect service, 24/7 tech support, who knows what else? The fact that they "paid for it" would mean higher expectations... and more headaches for Mirabilis. It's a lose/lose situation... charging a fee just doesn't work for a product that requires a large number of users and easy access in order to be useful. Mirabilis has always known that and so does AOL... why do you think Instant Messenger has always been free for everyone to use, even non-AOLers?

A few people have suggested that instead of mandatory fees Mirabilis should have asked for donations. While "donation ware" may bring in a few dollars for small-time programmers with no overhead expenses (it doesn't cost them anything when people download their software so anything sent in is pure profit), I doubt it would have been enough to pay off Mirabilis's initial investors and then keep up with the demand for new hardware and personnel. Raising $287 million among approximately 10 million unique users would have required every one of them to send in $28.70, or $358.75 from each of that 8% who said they would consider paying for ICQ. Either way, it wasn't going to happen and Mirabilis needed cash in a hurry.

As of this writing, it's been over three years since AOL's purchase and ICQ is still free. For those who have been holding their breath, you can inhale now.

 Why AOL? They Should Have Made A Deal With The Devil

I'll admit that AOL isn't my favorite company in the world. I've never been a member and I've "rescued" my share of friends and family from their over-priced, under performing, totalitarian "service." When I first heard about the proposed sale I was shocked and wished Mirabilis had chosen someone else, much like these people...

  • You should have hooked up with Netscape and let them use you instead of IM.
  • You shoulda hooked up with Netscape or one of the video game companies.
  • Why did ICQ choose AOL? Can't they tell or find out that AOL is the slowest, least stable, and most expensive ISP that is out there?
  • AOHell? Oh god...Why? WHY?! I've been crying non stop since I found out. This is too tramatizing.
  • Why didn't they choose Mindspring or Earthlink, or a variety of other ISPs that would do good for ICQ instead of help a giant, dictatorial corporation like AOL?

As the harsh reality that Mirabilis was going to be bought by AOL set in, I started reading everything I could find about the deal and talked with a few people who were involved in it. The first thing I found out was that Mirabilis had been talking with other companies for months. It takes a company with very deep pockets to be able to afford to purchase a company like Mirabilis which has never generated any income and will require a steady diet of new equipment upgrades as they continue to grow. Netscape doesn't have that kind of capital, most of their value is on paper and their best known product is a give-away just like ICQ. It's ironic that they also have had to turn to AOL in order to stay solvent. ISPs like MindSpring and Earthlink are getting by but they need to continue to invest in areas that will generate additional income, something ICQ wouldn't be able to do unless they tried to charge for it or load it up with ad banners... the very things Mirabilis was trying to avoid. That doesn't leave many viable candidates. In the end, AOL made the best offer and was willing to allow Mirabilis to continue to develop and run ICQ in the manner that has made it the most popular program of its kind.

It has been suggested that because of their young ages (at the time of the deal Sefi was 26, Yair 27 and Arik 28), AOL was able to trick the founders of Mirabilis into agreeing to a "bad deal." However, Arik's father Yossi was also involved with the negotiations and he has been founding technology companies in Israel since the 1960s... not what you would call a newbie to the business world. He feels that the deal with AOL was the best choice the company could make, and I have yet to see any evidence to contradict his assessment. So far everyone I've heard from who has claimed AOL will take unfair advantage of Mirabilis have one thing in common: none of them were at the negotiating table or know the details of the acquisition. The only evidence they can cite is anecdotal... because AOL has mistreated their customers they will do the same to their business partners. While AOL's heavy-handed treatment of their customers doesn't speak well for their integrity, it has yet to be demonstrated that they deceived Mirabilis in any way. On the contrary, ICQ has improved since becoming the benefactor of AOL's cash influx. The deal was closed on June 8, 1998, I'm writing this on January 8, 1999, exactly seven months later. Let's see how many of the dire predictions have come true to date.

Or for the comments in green text, 44 months later.

 The Rumors Of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated - M. Twain

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to pay tribute to this once great software, cut down in the prime of its life by the forces of evil...

  • I'm saddened by this release and will mourn the death of ICQ as I know it.
  • I really love this program...and hate to see it sink as fast as it rose.
  • This was a very bad move and all it will take is another company to come along and me and everyone I know is GONE. Very bad move ICQ.
  • I regret to see the loss of this software, but know that as Aol takes over, that trying to use it will be futile.
  • IF ICQ is aquired by AOL (Comonly know as the worst ISP in the U.S. and posibly the world) it will drag ICQ in to the mud with it.
  • Months down the road, ICQ will 'merge' with the AOL Buddy System. Gone will be the ICQ name .. gone will be the name Mirabilis.
  • AOL is not the solution here, but the beginnning of the end for ICQ.
  • AOL can't leave something this big alone...They'll squeeze the life out of it, and ICQ will lose everything it was good for.
  • Now you have lost my patronage and many others will undoubtedly do the same.
  • So give a last farewell to one of the most brilliant ideas of the net and lets hope for a bunch of new young programmers who will re-invent this kind of communication.

You might want to hold off on printing ICQ's obituary, I believe the patient is still breathing. In fact, it shows every indication of growing stronger and better. The servers have been more reliable than at any time in the 19 months I've been using ICQ and the latest version of the software is brilliant. New people are joining the ICQ community in droves and usage continues to skyrocket. In fact, if not for the press release announcing AOL's acquisition and the media attention, I doubt anyone would even know they were involved. Like it or not, rather than killing ICQ it appears AOL has thus far contributed to its improvement.

The end of 2001 saw not only a still strong ICQ, but the release of version 2001b. As with any software, ICQ has seen its share of bugs and security glitches, along with new features and options. Some people like the new version and, naturally, some don't. But the core features are still there and despite a plethora of other Instant Messaging programs available, ICQ retains a very large and loyal member base.

 The Billing Will Commence In Five Minutes

If only I had a dime for every time someone has said Mirabilis was going to charge...

  • The days of free use are no dount coming to an end, I cannot see AOL not charging for the service.
  • I'll watch the news in the coming months to see when you will start charging for this. It will happen.
  • One day, AOL will ask you to charge me for ICQ, this is INEVITABLE.
  • I think that selling icq to aol is a very poor idea. I dont think it will be long until they are charging for it.
  • Its quite sad to see you go to a company that consistantly has one of hte laggiest connections to the internet, and who will no doubt ruin this wonderful product you developed by charging for it.
  • I got messages that likely AOL will make us pay every single message.
  • I only feel sorry for the millions of users out there that'll no doubt eventually get a bill for the use of ICQ or a letter telling of how only AOL members can now use it.
  • Now that ICQ and AOL have merged, We'll be paying VERY soon.
  • To follow suit with AOL's profiteering methods, they are supposedly now going to start charging users for messages.
  • People must realize that nobody does anything for free anymore. This is just bate to lore all prospective buyers in and once they got you hooked, THEY'RE GOING TO REAL YOU IN. So get ready to quit or pay!!!
  • AOL will probably charge us also, especially if we are not AOL members!
  • I am upset that AOL has devised up two scenarios for ICQ users. The first is that we shell out $20 for 3 month use or $50 for an entire year.

The last one about $20/$50 sounds very similar to an "article" that Gamesmania published, here is a portion of it:

Right now the some 12 million users of ICQ pay nothing for the
service but all that is about to change according to Gamesmania
sources inside AOL.

There will be one of two scenarios developing over the next few
months. One scenario sees ICQ users have to pay $20 for three
months use or $50 for the entire year for their ICQ privileges with a
maximum number of users they can authorize. Right now you can
authorize as many people as you want to.

The second scenario sees the ICQ feature being added to AOL
users for an additional charge.

That was published in June of 1998 and as of January 1999 it is still on their website. It makes you wonder just how they define "the next few months." Could it be that their "sources inside AOL" mislead them? My "sources" tell me that of the millions of users of ICQ, not one has ever been asked to pay for the service and contact lists can be as long as you want them to be. Whose sources do you believe?

If AOL were really going to charge then what are they waiting for? Seeing as how the Y2K bug is supposed to end the world on January 1, 2000, you would think they would be in a hurry to start making their money back. But as we have already seen, ICQ does not lend itself to a subscriber fee model, however it does make a great "portal." In case you haven't heard, a portal is a location that many people pass through to visit other sites on the web. Since ICQ has become a semi-permanent fixture on millions of desktops, it is ideally suited to be used for not only contacting your friends, but for finding sites on the web. ICQ99 has a search engine window built right into the interface. Incidentally, if you click "Remove Contact List Buttons" in the prefs menu you can make all the new buttons go away, so nothing is being "forced" on anyone. But I rather like the new features. Next to the Web Search "hatch" you can click on a "More" button that will refine your search to one of the popular search engines, Usenet Discussion Groups, Software, References, Translation, News, Finance, Sports or Weather. In a word, this is cool. Just under the search is a Net button that brings up a menu of topics you can link to directly. Taken together, you have the makings of a very useful multi-functional tool sitting right in your system tray. While writing this page, I used it to do a search for "ICQ portal" and found a link to AOL's ICQ: The Next Internet Portal?, an article from The Street Advisor. A quote from that article:

Although ICQ currently provides little revenue to America Online, the ICQ model could develop very similarly to the AOL model. AOL's most popular function for the first 3 years of its meteoric growth was chatting. As the interface has begun to offer more, those users who used to stay online to chat now find their way into content and commerce areas. If AOL develops the ICQ model in this way, this $287 million acquisition could become the base for the largest Internet access platform for users of Internet service providers, institutions, and corporations.

And that my friends is where AOL's $287 million could eventually pay off big time. As millions of people begin to use ICQ as the portal through which they find websites, the value of being linked from that little flower in the system tray could be tremendous. For example, I just entered a stock symbol into ICQ's search hatch and then chose Finance News/Quotes where I was able to select either StockMaster or BigCharts to get my quote from. When millions of other people begin to use ICQ in similar ways, being listed on that menu could make or break a company doing business on the net. We're not the ones who need to worry about being billed, it's the sites that we visit through ICQ who will be picking up the tab. In fact, the more people who use ICQ the more valuable it becomes, so not only can you expect it to always remain free to use, but also expect to see it continue to improve. ICQ is posed to become one of the biggest cash cows on the net, and all we have to do is sit back and enjoy it. Now that is what I call a win/win situation.

It's debatable whether that little flower in the system tray has paid-off for AOL. Many programs now place an icon in the system tray, mine currently has 15, so the value of having the flower there may now be getting diluted. The same can be said for portals, seems like there are more portals on the net than "content sites" for them to link to. I'm not privy to AOL/Time-Warner's internal audits, but if I had to guess, ICQ has probably cost it's parent company far more than it has made (that should put a smile on the AOL-haters' faces).

 Will It Come With Green Eggs?

Never mind that ICQ has features for blocking messages from anyone who isn't on your contact list, and forget the fact that you don't even have to enter an e-mail address in your profile, the panic stricken masses were convinced that ICQ would become a haven for spammers...

  • Knowing AOL..charges are in the near future for a spam laden, slow and sloppy version of Icq.
  • Once the SPAM starts, I will remove it. And the SPAM WILL start; it is inevitable. AOL knows nothing else...that is its entire existance. I now dissuade anyone from getting ICQ and, as soon as I can make certain arrangements, I will hopefully have it uninstalled BEFORE the SPAM starts.
  • If we thought the chain letter losers were bad, now we'll get "OFFICIAL" spam messages.
  • Not to mention that AOL will get ahold of the "Master List" of UIN's and guess what they will do with it .... sell it and then you will find spam via ICQ.

You want the master list of UINs? No problem, just start counting at 2001 and don't stop until you reach about 25 million (probably more when most of you read this). Heck, I could have sold AOL the "master list" if that is really what they wanted. In fact, I could have fired-up Visual Basic and written a program that would have surfed through every ICQ user's Whitepage and stored the details in a database. Get a few of my friends to help out and we could have the whole database in a week. Which leads me to offer some friendly advice: If you don't want info about yourself to be known, don't publish it on the World Wide Web (duh!). That is perhaps one of the nicest things about ICQ, it doesn't demand that you enter ANYTHING about yourself. So if you are really worried about spam, remove your e-mail address from your ICQ profile and turn on the message blocking features found on the Security & Privacy/Ignore List menu... then quit whining, it is very unbecoming of you.

There is no doubt that spamming has been on the rise in ICQ, but that statement is just as true everywhere else (I get well over 50 e-mail spams a day). ICQ still offers blocking features, though with the introduction of ICQ-based "e-mail" it isn't enough to only block messages not sent from people on the user's contact list in the Messages section of the Security and Privacy Permissions menu. With the latest versions of ICQ, you must also set the permissions for all the "Communication Events" which will also block e-mail and SMS messages. By default, the new blocking options are not turned on, so users who upgrade to versions with the new e-mail/SMS features often report that they are getting more spam and the old blocking in the Messages section "doesn't work." From what I can see, it works fine but you must turn on the new blocking options if you wish to stop all forms of spam. ICQ's programmers probably could have done a better job of introducing these new features, but they ARE there and they DO appear to work... I haven't received even a SINGLE SPAM MESSAGE since upgrading and activating the new blocks.

 Click Here To Visit Our Sponsor

I've always been amused by people who say if ICQ were to display ads that they would switch to a different pager and then suggest one that is advertiser supported. Why? Are the other guy's ads somehow less offensive? But despite the fact that not one ad has ever been seen on ICQ's client software, some people could already see them in their crystal balls...

  • I know AOL will use ICQ to bombard us with their advertisements like they do with their browser.
  • My only worry is that AOL will attempt to turn the system into a profiteering racket by adding advertising, subscriptions etc.
  • Its quite sad to see you go to a company that consistantly has one of hte laggiest connections to the internet, and who will no doubt ruin this wonderful product you developed by charging for it, limiting access, and then advertising in a hundred million places.
  • What we will get now is commercial banners and all the clogged up access problems associated with AOL.
  • Soon AOL will put there ads on ICQ, and then there will be a charge for having ICQ. I will leave when that day comes.
  • The only other way to make money with something besides marketing it, is to use it as a marketing platform. Period.

As I've already stated, using ICQ as a portal is a great way to make money without resorting to ad banners or user fees. I strongly suspect the ICQ software will remain not only free, but also free of advertising. I'm not so sure about the Mirabilis/ICQ website, it looks like they already have a mechanism in place for delivering ads, but at the time of this writing they are only displaying ads related to ICQ. If they were to start running ad banners for outside companies I wouldn't have a problem with it. Sponsor supported websites are becoming increasingly common, you're looking at one right now (note: Mirabilis is not a sponsor of this site). It isn't just on the net, we are bombarded with advertising from the time we wake-up until we go to bed. Think about it, your clock radio goes off and the radio station runs commercials. Pick-up the morning newspaper and it is filled with ads. On your way to work or school you probably pass dozens of billboards. At lunch you read your favorite magazine and there are more ads. In the evening you turn on TV and there they are again. I wonder how many people would boycott Star Trek, the X-Files or South Park because they are supported by advertising? How about sporting events? Ever been to an auto race? They are basically high speed billboards. Most stadiums are ringed with advertising and if you look-up there is the blimp and banner planes with still more ads. Advertising generates billions of dollars (or Marks or Francs, etc.) in revenue, and if it weren't for advertisers supplementing the costs, many of the things we take for granted would become too expensive for all but an elite few.

Before moving on, I just want to mention one of my pet peeves. I wonder how many of the people who would complain about ad banners on Mirabilis's site have free homepages with services like GeoCities, Tripod or Fortune City? I don't mind a banner that is part of a web page, but I seriously don't like those pop-up ads being thrown in my face. Seems like I've had to click to close thousands of them. So where do people who have sponsor supported websites get off complaining about Mirabilis running ads? Look-up the word "hypocrite" sometime. As long as the banners stay on the web pages and out of the client software I have no problem with them, and will even click on a few occasionally if they look interesting (you might want to do the same *hint-hint*).

Well, what can I say? Over time, ad banners have begun to appear in ICQ windows for messaging and other options. But I guess I shouldn't be too surprised by this, ad banners appear in many "freeware" programs and many, if not most, webpages. To ICQ's credit, the banners have not been too obnoxious and are embedded into the window rather than using pop-ups (those annoy me to no end). There is a certain irony in the timing of the introduction of ad banners... the cost for banner advertising has plummeted in recent years and it's doubtful that AOL/ICQ is raking in the big bucks with their ads. Personally, I just mentally tune out the ads, much the same way I don't pay much attention to ad billboards when driving down the highway. For those who can't ignore them, the Internet must be a very frustrating experience.

 You Can't F****** Say That S*** Here

As you read these remember something, they were posted in Mirabilis's website forum in June '98 and as of Jan '99 are still there...

  • Free speech just lost another round on the internet! AOL will undoubtedly incorporate ICQ into its restricted compound of "information" and charge for the privilege of its use.
  • Eventually the service will be just another over crowded, AOL contrived, chat mechanism with censors waiting to filter out any un-wanted information. What a waste!
  • I'm scared AOL will start monitoring ICQ just like they monitor their chat rooms.

I admit that AOL has stepped way over the line when it comes to censoring their members. At one time they even banned the word "breast" until the folks in the cooking forum complained that they couldn't talk about their favorite chicken recipes. But they are going to have a difficult time trying to censor the ICQ community since messages and chats are not conducted through their servers but rather on a point-to-point basis. In other words, they can't censor what they can't see. So if you see your friends online and send them a recipe for BBQed chicken, the message will go directly to them, breasts and all. The latest ICQ client does have a provision for banned words, but YOU choose what, if anything, to ban. It won't stop anyone else from seeing the banned words, only you. AOL could learn a few things from the way Mirabilis allows their members to choose for themselves what is acceptable. And as mentioned above, dozens of angry ICQers left nastygrams in Mirabilis's forum, yet not only weren't they censored, but they remain there today. I think that says a lot about Mirabilis's concern regarding freedom of speech and the control AOL has over their decisions. Not many companies would allow their own forum to be used to post so much criticism about them, much of it unjustified and in some cases completely false. Personally, I think they should be applauded for their actions (way to go, Mirabilis!).

No changes here, ICQ is still not monitored and users can decide for themselves if they wish to use a banned word list. It's interesting to note that I've received MANY e-mails complaining that ICQ doesn't censor the spam messages sent from "adult" websites. But like everything else with ICQ, it's the USER'S responsibility to decide what to block, ICQ does not impose their morality on the content of messages. As mentioned above in the section on spam, the blocking features are there and do work, but it's up to the user to activate them.

 The Lunatic Fringe (Time To Have Some Fun *wink*)

If you think some of the concerns expressed so far have been a bit "out there," then you haven't read anything yet. I think most of the posts up to this point have had some validity, after all AOL's track record is far from spotless. Change is often accompanied by uncertainty and apprehension, so who could blame some folks for expressing their worst fears? It says a lot about how deeply ICQ has become a part of many people's lives that they would react so strongly to the possibility of losing it. Fortunately it appears ICQ will remain a great product, and most people have calmed down now that it is becoming apparent that the sky isn't falling. That being said, let's take a look at some of the more alarmist posts. I don't know where these people came from, but if I had to guess I would say the Twilight Zone. *g*

  • This is a sad time in our internet world. The AOL monster has taken away our freedom to talk to others. Soon people will be getting ICQ disks in their mail, magazines, and cereal, which AOL has put disk in all of the above. This is truely a sad time. Our freedom to talk has been sold out.

ICQ disks with my Rice Crispies? I LOVE IT! Will they go "snap, crackle, uh-oh?" This isn't sad, it's hysterical. The AOL monster wants to take away our freedom but also wants us to eat our Wheaties!

  • I got messages that likely AOL will make us pay every single message. I don't know if it is true that AOL ruined the whole American net system, i'm in Italy and don't giva a damn about it.

You know, if they were charging for every single message you probably wouldn't have your head filled so many false ideas. As for the "American net system," if you are reading this then it is safe to say AOL hasn't ruined it. Ciao.

  • Recieved this in the mail: "I checked it out, and it really is true It's on Mirabilis Home Page: They are requesting a payment to each message you send. If you want to vote against it, click foward and send this message to everyone. If the number of vote is larger than 3000 then they won't start c" Go figure. Get the word out and stop this.

Well, if you got it in e-mail then it must be true, right? Never mind the official statement on Mirabilis's homepage saying they aren't planning any charges, you can't believe everything you read, just the anonymous messages that claim 3,000 "votes" will determine corporate policy. Considering that there are over ten million people using ICQ, doesn't it strike you as a bit odd that 3,000 votes (or less than one out of every 3,300 members) would be enough to make them change their mind if they really were planning to charge? BTW, this may be the oldest rumor passed on ICQ, time to put it to rest.

  • If you sell it to aol they will use it for their own personal use. Theyre will no longer be a service like ICQ if it is sold. What they will probably do is put it on AOL and say if you want this you have to pay extra money. Its going to be the same way that the owner of aol sold everyones address/name to some company for like 5 million dollars. Keep the company together!

Five million dollars? Are we talking U.S. Dollars? That's a pretty expensive mailing list. I've seen CD-ROMs with millions of snail mail and e-mail address that only sold for a couple hundred dollars. Where do you get your information from, Jerry Springer? What I really want to know is who bought them? For that kind of money I'll sell 'em all my neighbor's addresses.

  • Well! Well! Well! I hear that AOL has a new servant-ICQ! Well I don't like it! I just started to use ICQ some WWEKS ago, and I really do like it, but now that AOL(America Offline) has bought this wonderful program, I think we are truely going to lose out, if we don't do something to Fight Back! As one poster said- One Million letters from One Million angry people- would do the trick. But, we all must stick together on this. It's either you are with us or against us! So what's it going to be? Are we gonna FIGHT BACK! and send those One Million letters, Or are we going to lose ICQ? You decide! the plan: One Million letters this week, One Million letters next week, ond so on. I mean how bad can that be to us- ONE letter a week from each of us all around the world. Don't tell me you're scared to mail a letter?! People you see- ICQ is a wonderful program, and if you don't take a stand now, it's going to be a PAY program, and I don't think any one of you outthere wants to give AOL one more red cent of your money do you????? We must keep ICQ FREE and ruuning smoothly. I mean we do love it right? That's why it's the #1 Download of all time. Let's keep it that way. I would like someone to post AOL's address up here (I don't have it) so that we don't have to look all over for it, and when ever we write those letters, we have a place to come and get that address. Let's show 'em that we are not just gonna sit quietly, and give them more money. Are you with me?? Let me hear you say YEAH! People I really don't want to see ICQ go down the drain- don't dissapoint me on this now, okay. Let's get those pens ready, and start writing TODAY! It's a wonderful program with a damn good name:ICQ! the people that created it are wonderful. Let's not let them down either. I mean if this can be the #1 download of all time, you can't possibly tell me that you are too busy to write a letter! (One per person- from all of us- all around the World!) Every Day, Every Week. What ever it tak

First of all.. dude, TAKE A DEEP BREATH before we have to call the paramedics to revive you. Cheerleading practice is over, put the pompoms down and get a grip. We don't have to fight back because there is nothing to fight over, ICQ is still a wonderful, free program and the last thing AOL wants to do is change the name, that is part of the reason they bought it. The only thing sending a million letters will accomplish is killing a lot of trees. You don't want to kill trees, do you?

Oh, and just so you don't have to "look all over" for AOL's address, try www.aol.com.

  • Help...Is anyone else out there having the connectivity problems that I am having??? My ICQ has worked really well until now. Now that AOL has bought out ICQ, it seems like I can NEVER connect. If I am lucky enough to connect it is not long before I get kicked off again. This does not happen once or twice, it will occur during an entire evening. How can you chat with friends when you keep getting kicked off? Also, when I do connect, it takes approx. 30-45 seconds before anyone in my contact list is being shown as online. I know this for a fact because I have two numbers and it will show a contact as being online, then when I switch to the other number and am logged on, it takes forever before that person shows as being online. Like everyone, I had the occasional connection problems with ICQ during peak times, but it just seems like they are getting much worse and happen on a daily basis! See what being owned by AOL can do you Mirabilis? I will be looking for a new buddy program for sure.

This was posted on June 10th, two days after AOL bought Mirabilis. At that time AOL had not even begun to have any affect on Mirabilis's network, nor would have any affect for weeks to come. What was true however is that the ICQ network was failing to handle the tremendous load that was being placed on it. With no income and a quickly growing user base, it was just a matter of time before the entire network would have collapsed. Have you noticed an improvement lately? THAT is what being owned by AOL can do to Mirabilis... keep it up and running. To my knowledge, the ICQ network uses proprietary software, meaning it is unique and does not share AOL's servers, even the ones used by Instant Messenger. That is probably why IM and ICQ have not merged, for the same reasons you can't put Dodge parts in a Ford, they are incompatible. But AOL's money has been able to buy the additional hardware that ICQ so desperately needed, and we are beginning to see the benefits. Unfortunately, the ICQ network has to rely on the rest of the Internet's infrastructure to function properly, and the net is getting increasingly congested. More people are on it for longer periods of time using applications that require more data to be sent (voice, video, games, etc.). For that reason ICQ will always have some "bad days," just as every website will occasionally be inaccessible or slow. When everyone can't connect then it is most likely a problem with ICQ's network (BTW, adding additional servers won't help you connect when the network is down). Other times it could be your ISP or one of the major backbone providers. That is life on the net, and much like an over crowded freeway, complaining about it isn't going to make the traffic flow any faster. But I can tell you this, if Mirabilis hadn't gotten a large cash infusion when they did, we wouldn't have a chance to complain about slow connects because there wouldn't have been an ICQ for much longer. I guess for many people, having Mirabilis bailed out by AOL is like having your worst enemy save you from drowning, you're glad to be alive but you sure wish it had been someone else who pulled you to shore.

  • I was sadden to hear that Aol has taken over ICQ... WE do NOT want this .....Icq was such a great tool to use to communicate with friends and family and even make new friends...but now.....after only a few days of AOL being in control it seems like ICQ has been screwed up....people are getting thrown offline the same way the aol users do....Damn....i made sure not to get aol as my provider because of things people say about it.....and to me they are a bunch of greedy self serving jerks that run aol....no one can get into their sites.but their users..but then their users can get into ours........kinda selfish don't you think? that is the way ICQ will be.....for aol customers only!!!!!!! get out of it aol we don't want you involved.........

No one can get into their sites but their users? Hello? Could it be that is because their users pay for that privilege? It's called "value added service" and there are plenty of places you can't get into on the net without paying something, AOL is hardly the only place. You can get into AOL's members homepages, just as they can access yours, it is intended to be for the public. It should be clear by now that I'm no fan of AOL, but some of these attacks are getting ridicules. Isn't it obvious by now that AOL didn't buy ICQ just for their customers? They allow anyone to use their IM software, doesn't that give you a clue? I better move on before my low tolerance for morons begins to show. What's that you say? Too late? *grin*

  • Isn't it obvious why AOL is buying ICQ? Not for a silly $45 per year or 10cents per mesage. Either option would be unworkable, counter productive and non-profitable. They may be AOL, but they are not stupid. (no offense) So what does AOL get from the deal, other than the obvious stuff mentioned in the "official" response on the ICQ webpage. Well, 1st go read YOUR EXISTING end users legal agreement at http://www.icq.com/download/license.html that's what AOL is buying. You already gave ICQ (now AOL) not only the right to collect, use and sell all the information, demographics collected about you, but also if you read closely they actually OWN (in theory) everything you transmit to (thru) icq. (begin quote) By submitting or sending documentation, information or other material to Mirabilis you (1) warrant that you have no rights of any kind to the materials or the content thereof; that to the best of your knowledge no other party has any rights to the materials or their content; (2) grant Mirabilis an unrestricted, irrevocable license to use, reproduce, display, perform, modify, transmit and distribute those materials, and you further agree that Mirabilis is free to use any ideas, know-how, concepts or techniques you send us for any purpose. (unquote) Obviously ICQ isn't presently exercising this option, and it wouldn't even bother me if AOL did. If they can make a little money off of the useless info I send thru ICQ in exchange for providing a FREE service, more power to them. My point is, USE YOUR COMMON SENSE, figure out that AOL/ICQ isn't about to start charging when they have something much more valuable. Our user data & demographics to exploit or even sell, and even the information itself that we send if they see some profit in it. I'd suggest you reply to the chain-letters about Doom and Gloom and fees with some common sense reasons that AOL bought ICQ, not childish and unthought out ideas like 10cent per message or $45 per year.

And to think, this one started off with so much promise. The author understood that AOL didn't buy ICQ to charge the users, even expressed it rather well. Then his Prozac wore off. Well, since this person changed me to use my common sense, I'll do just that. Note the beginning of the quote: "By submitting or sending documentation, information or other material to Mirabilis..." They didn't say "through the ICQ network" they said to them. This isn't a minor point, it is the entire flaw behind this gentleman's reasoning. You see, when you send "documentation, information or other material" to anyone without first securing an agreement to confidentiality, it can legally be used by the recipient. For example, if you send me an e-mail I am entitled to publish it on my website. Or if you tell me some great idea that hasn't been copyrighted or patented, I can use (steal) it and there is nothing you can do about it (sucker). Now that doesn't mean I can eavesdrop on your private correspondence with someone else, that would be a violation of the law. But if you willingly give me valuable information that isn't protected and I haven't first agreed to keep it confidential, they you are out of luck. That is basically what the Mirabilis agreement states, if you send them your ideas then they are free to use them. It doesn't say anything about messages you send to someone else, and trying to claim that they are going to use ICQ to somehow harvest their members ideas... well, that is even more "childish and unthought out" than the "gonna charge" rumors.

 Only Time Will Tell

I honestly don't know what the future holds for ICQ. All I can do is look back on the past seven months and make the following observations:

  1. ICQ is still as free as the day it started.
  2. No one has been told to join AOL.
  3. Ad banners have not appeared in the new software.
  4. No one has been censored, either on ICQ or Mirabilis's forum.
  5. Unless you count the morons who have sent spam warning about spam, I haven't been spammed.
  6. None of my ideas have been stolen and Mirabilis is welcome to use anything I send to them.
  7. I haven't found an ICQ disk in my cereal box, though I'll keep looking.
  8. ICQ is connecting better now than before AOL bought it.
  9. The guys who founded Mirabilis are still working there.
  10. The latest version (ICQ99a) is a winner, I love the new features.
  11. If I hadn't read about AOL's purchase I would hardly even know it happened.
  12. All my friends have continued to use ICQ and so will I.
  1. Over three and a half years since the buyout and ICQ is still free.
  2. I'm still not an AOL member but I'm still using ICQ.
  3. The banners are here, guess some things are as inevitable as death and taxes.
  4. Still no censorship and no reason to expect there will be.
  5. Spam is everywhere... but at least it gets blocked before I see any in ICQ.
  6. Anyone had an "idea" stolen by Mirabilis? I didn't think so.
  7. Still get the AOL disks, but have to download ICQ just as I always have.
  8. No major ICQ-related connection problems from my location.
  9. The founders of Mirabilis may no longer be working for AOL as their three year contract has since expired.
  10. Version 2001b works fine on my system, not a single crash to date.
  11. ICQ still retains much of its original look and feel... it doesn't seem like an "AOL" product to moi.
  12. My friends are still using ICQ and I can't see any reason not to.

Despite all the accusations, Mirabilis has remained true to the ICQ community. At this point I have no reason to believe that any changes for the worse are in store for us. On the contrary, things seems to be getting better and from what I gather the guys at Mirabilis are happy with the treatment they have received from AOL. So until I have a good reason not to use ICQ, I'm going to continue to enjoy chatting with my friends with the finest free program I have ever used. And if AOL should make a fortune using ICQ as a portal.. well, so be it. Maybe they will learn something from Mirabilis about treating people with respect and the benefits of providing the best service possible. Okay, maybe that is expecting too much, but we can hope, can't we?

Aside from the ubiquitous ad banners, it looks like the doomsayers are just as wrong today as they were several years ago. Yet I still hear a lot of complaining and threats to stop using ICQ if they don't "change this" or "stop doing that." I guess some people will never feel they are getting their money's worth from a free program.

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AOL/ICQ Acquisition Revisited Copyright ©1999-2002
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