With so many news about Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and BBM, most people forgot that ICQ Instant Messenger is not yet extinct. In fact, this piece of ancient technology experienced an increase of its user base for the first time in what seems like forever.
One of the main reasons ICQ never caught up is because it used some strange strings as usernames, and remembering or even exchanging said usernames with friends was a burden. Despite of this inconvenience, Russians grew fond of ICQ and as a result, Alisher Usamanov, the billionaire owner of the Mail.ru group, decided to buy it in 2010. Ever since that moment, it definitely looked like ICQ was eaten by a wormhole, as it hasn’t made the news until a few days ago when Bloomberg unburied it and noticed that its user base has increased for the first time in years.
The Israeli-developed IM software had 100 million users at its peak, which is quite a performance, in modern times. Mind you, ICQ wasn’t popular only in Russia, but also in other countries from all over the world. Still, in 2010, when Russia’s richest man paid $188 million to acquire it, ICQ only had 42 million users.
Last year, there were only 11 million users left, but according to Bloomberg, that number increased by 1 million within a single week. Most new users originated in Brazil, so it makes you wonder what determined these South Americans to develop a sudden interest for ICQ. Half of last year’s users were using the mobile app in which Mail.ru invested a lot to turn it in a piece of software that belongs on an Android or iPhone, instead of a Palm.
Igor Ermakov, head of IM at Mail.ru explained that “Our priority is gaining user base. In regions like Russia, Europe and Latin America, we can hope to grow.” Obviously, North America is not among their targets, and it’s a bit weird to even see Europe listed there. On these continents, the technological progress and the replacement of feature phones with smartphones determined such apps as Skype, Viber and Whatsapp to become more and more popular, in the detriment of ICQ. It’ll be interesting to see the consequences of this user base increase, and exactly how all this will play out for Mail.ru.