Evolution of Chat – IRC/ICQ/Friendster/MSN/Gchat

JoelCulture, New media, Social MediaLeave a Comment

Not too long ago, on a whim I searched for Mud I used to actively participate in, Realms of Despair. It was perhaps 15 years ago but it is still around and still active even in this age of MMORPGs.


It started me thinking about my progression down the path of socialization and convergence.

It started with MIRC, in a world of windows and text and Acsii art, we discovered entire communities and worlds, made new friends and interacted. It was strangely addictive, going home to log in to see familiar names and just participating .

Next came ICQ(I seek you) – the ubiquitous uh-oh of new chats coming in. With ICQ, chat was personal, where MIRC was a community, ICQ was my own community of personal friends. Where you could meet people and add them on ICQ rather than just turn up at an appointed time in an appointed chat room.

Next came hotmail. This was a bit of a revelation, till then, there were other web based emails but Microsoft was blazing and hotmail was a revelation.

Friendster was birthed next, and it took the road to the next level where one could not only add friends, but see photos and updates from friends. It was the cool thing and everyone had friendster accounts.

Around that time, Microsoft launched an app called messenger… This quickly became king of the hill. I am not too sure why it supplanted ICQ, I do remember running both for the longest time.

So at this time, I had hotmail for email, Friendster for social, and ICQ/Messenger for communications and yahoo for Yahoo pool 🙂

All this while, Lycos, Alta Vista and askjeeves were my search engines of choice.

And it was all good.

Until, it was Google.

Google happened, and soon there was no search except Google, there was no mail except gmail.

Gchat became the de facto chat simply because my email window was open all the time and it became easier to communicate directly on that screen. Also, I did not have to add my friends, those people on my email list were automatically added to the chat list.

Of course, Facebook also began. It quickly became the social media vehicle of choice, I believe largely because of in platform apps and games. I was an admittedly late adopter, only starting my account in 2008, and i did so to play mousehunt and bejeweled. It was just easier to use than friendster.

This evolution is a study in consumer education, consumer choices, platform maturity, market timing and the development of convergent, connected, engaged social platforms.

Still, it was fun to look back.

We live in exciting times.

JoelEvolution of Chat – IRC/ICQ/Friendster/MSN/Gchat