Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Ads by Google

What were your pre-teen years like? Mine were frequently punctuated by the suddenly exploding internet. We’d never seen such a tool before. Instant Messengers installed themselves in the fabric of the internet and our lives. The rest, as we say, is history.

Or rather, it isn’t.

What is your primary messaging service? How many instant messaging services will we find on your phone? Friends and family are always within reach via Facebook Messenger, Twitter, SnapChat, WhatsApp, Kik, Viber, Telegram, or any of the myriad communication apps Here Are the Fastest Growing Social Networks You Need to Join Here Are the Fastest Growing Social Networks You Need to Join While Facebook holds the lion's share of the social market, new services like Kik, Snapchat and WhatsApp threaten to break Facebook's stranglehold on the social Internet. Read More we now keep in our pockets. How about your colleagues? The MakeUseOf team uses Slack Slack Makes Group Communication Faster and Easier Slack Makes Group Communication Faster and Easier Group emails can really kill productivity. It's time to put mail clients to rest and use collaboration services like newly launched Slack. Read More . Others will use Google Hangouts 15 Creative Ways to Get The Most Out of Google Hangouts 15 Creative Ways to Get The Most Out of Google Hangouts These creative ideas for Google Hangouts can be used to enrich your life in all spheres – whether you're working, relaxing, communicating with family, or trying to pick up a new skill. Read More , or ClearChat if you’re concerned about security.

Ready for a surprise? People still use Yahoo Messenger Yahoo! We Lost Your Data! Two Years Ago... Yahoo! We Lost Your Data! Two Years Ago... Web giant Yahoo has suffered an enormous data breach. The breach, which took place in 2014, resulted in the information of 500 million Yahoo users being offered for sale on the dark web. Read More . Some people still use MSN Live Messenger. I know, right? We’ve more to share, too: all equally shocking. Let’s take a look at why some people hold onto these antiquated services, and why some remain useful.

1. Yahoo Messenger

Yahoo Messenger still commands a reasonable user base. In July 2016, Yahoo was finally sold for $5 billion to U.S. communication giant Verizon. It arrives in its new home with a modern instant messaging platform. While an accurate number of users is hard to come by, Yahoo believe they “have millions of users on Messenger.”

Ads by Google

Yahoo Messenger recently received a drastic overhaul, aimed at modernizing their messaging service. The latest version integrates Flickr, Tumblr, and Xobni, and is available across iOS, Android, and on the web. The revamped Yahoo Messenger “was created with group messaging in mind,” allowing you to share, follow, like, and “unsend” messages. I think the modernization has paid off, and it appears to be a competent instant messaging platform.

2. Trillian

I used Trillian in the “instant messenger heyday.” Trillian started life as an ICQ (more on ICQ later!) client with integrated chat functionality for other popular platforms. It is now an ad-supported messaging client with support for Google Talk, Facebook Messenger, Aim, ICQ, Yahoo, and several other platforms.

In a nod to its commercial status, the Trillian installer is bundled with the highly undesirable The 7 Worst Places for Downloading Windows Software The 7 Worst Places for Downloading Windows Software Software can be packed with bloatware and worse, malware. You can catch malware, if you download your tools from the wrong source. These are the sites you should avoid... Read More OpenCandy. OpenCandy is a notorious adware platform 4 Steps To Completely Remove Troublesome Or Bad Software [Windows] 4 Steps To Completely Remove Troublesome Or Bad Software [Windows] We’ve all had that one program that no matter what we’ve tried, it wouldn’t go away. Or perhaps you didn’t even know what to try and thought you were simply stuck with this annoying program... Read More , rightly categorized as malware by many anti-virus developers.

The Trillian 5 interface is a step back in time to those instant messenger days. However, when you consider Trillian 5 was actually released in 2010, that we’re not too far in the future, along with modern app designs, Trillian will feel extremely dated for some.

3. AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)

AIM is the de facto instant messaging service provided by one of the internet’s perennial punching-bags, AOL. The internet is filled with poignant tales of elderly internet Multiple Versions of Windows 10, People Still Pay for AOL Internet, & More... [Tech News Digest] Multiple Versions of Windows 10, People Still Pay for AOL Internet, & More... [Tech News Digest] Windows 10 versions, AOL Internet subscribers, Wal-Mart copies Amazon, Wolfram identifies images, Type Drummer makes music, and if social networks started dating. Read More users refusing to cancel their America Online accounts “in case the cable goes out.” While the internet has undoubtedly evolved, some of its users hold their old accounts dear. While the popularly of AIM sharply decreased at the start of the decade, it is still regularly updated for its current userbase.

Between January 2011 and January 2012, AOL Instant Messenger usage — on AIM.com and in the AIM app — declined 64 percent, from 12 million users to just 4 million.

AIM could have been WhatsApp 7 Powerful Services You Can Use In WhatsApp 7 Powerful Services You Can Use In WhatsApp WhatsApp started as a cross-platform instant messaging client, but has since gone on to add a host of new features. Here are some of the most powerful new services to be added. Read More . With the right development, it would have been one of the first IMs to make that leap. Instead, AOL made several ill-advised, high-profile acquisitions and in the end, simply failed to pivot with the times.

4. Pidgin

Pidgin is another chat client with support for numerous other instant messengers. Pidgin was initially released in 1998, meaning some users in the UK will now be able to legally drink while sending IMs to their friends.

Pidgin is compatible with the following chat networks out of the box: AIM, ICQ, Google Talk, Jabber/XMPP, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Novell GroupWise Messenger, Lotus Sametime, SILC, SIMPLE, MXit, and Zephyr. It can support many more with plugins.

Third-party plugins add support for Facebook Messenger, Steam, Hangouts, Telegram, TorChat, and WhatsApp, making Pidgin an extremely well connected chat program. Pidgin may not be as popular as other major instant messengers, but it remains a favorite among privacy advocates. The Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) plugin enables end-to-end encryption, granting users additional privacy.

5. ICQ

ICQ is another stalwart of the instant messaging network. ICQ (I Seek You) first arrived on our systems in 1996. It laid the groundwork for other popular instant messaging services that would follow: a centralized service, individual user accounts, personal handles, file transfers, and a searchable user directory. Things we take for granted now were, at the time, truly exciting.

Roll forwards some 20 years, and the ICQ source code has been released on Github Not Just for Coders: 9 Ways To Use GitHub For Creative Work Not Just for Coders: 9 Ways To Use GitHub For Creative Work GitHub is known for the great features it can offer programmers, but it's not only for them. There are plenty of other creative uses for GitHub. Here are nine you can explore. Read More , under the Apache License. The messaging service is now freely available for download, modification, and redistribution What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] "Open source" is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. You may know that certain things are open source, like Linux and Android, but do you know what it entails? What is open... Read More . This might go some way to alleviating the concerns of those who consider ICQ a significant security risk, not least because of its 2010 purchase by Digital Sky Technologies, headed by Alisher Usmanov.

In 2010, security analyst Jeffery Carr noted that as ICQ would be owned by a Russian company, it would be required to comply with Russian law. This means the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) would have access to any logs and current activity taking place on the ICQ network, so “if you’re on ICQ, and you work for an employer who may be of interest to the FSB, now would be a really good time to close your account”.

However, the only difference I see here is who is looking at your logs, given what we know of surveillance schemes What Is PRISM? Everything You Need to Know What Is PRISM? Everything You Need to Know The National Security Agency in the US has access to whatever data you're storing with US service providers like Google Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook. They're also likely monitoring most of the traffic flowing across the... Read More orchestrated by the U.S. and U.K. governments.

6. IRC

Internet Relay Chat is another oldie-but-goldie How We Talk Online: A History of Online Forums, From Cavemen Days To The Present How We Talk Online: A History of Online Forums, From Cavemen Days To The Present Let’s take a step back and think about the wonders of modern technology for one second. The web has made it possible to participate in near-instant communication on a global scale. Join me as I... Read More many of our readers will have interacted with over the years. IRC is an application layer protocol that enables chat messages to be sent through the internet. To use IRC, you’ll need an IRC client. IRC clients are available for every major operating system and plenty of smaller ones too. As with most of the instant messaging services born on the early internet, times are looking hard — but not terminal:

It’s clear that overall IRC usage, both in terms of users as well as channels, has been in steady decline for many years. In fact, IRC has lost 60% of its users since 2003, a dramatic fall in numbers for any service.

Jarkko Oikarinen, the creator of IRC (he now works for Google on the Hangouts project), believes the decline of IRC is due to the increase of commercialization of services across the internet:

Companies want to bring users to their walled gardens, [and] keep the user’s profiles locked there and not make it easy for users to leave the garden and take their data with them.

Nonetheless, some IRC networks, such as Freenode, are gaining members. Other services still rely on the IRC network to provide support. Due to the easy nature of starting a private IRC server, the service is still widely used across the Tor network to provide encrypted communication channels.

Total number of IRC channels and users graph
Image Credit: Pingdom.com

Six of the Best

You’ve seen six instant messenger services still in use and understand a little about their history. In some cases, we’ve looked at the role they played in developing the messaging services we know and love today. In others, we’ve seen why they’re still important to their users.

We’re now almost overwhelmed with variety when it comes to messenger services. The advent of powerful smartphones, ubiquitous networking, and unrivalled bandwidth mean global communications are easier and more personal than ever.

That said, there was something magical about old instant messaging services, clunky as they were.

What was your favorite messaging service? Do you love the modern apps we use, or yearn for the oldies we’ve lost? Let us know your thoughts below!

  1. glissade
    September 29, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    I used them all at some point (not IRC though). They all were taken over by spam bots eventually. When the bots outnumbered the real people it was time to move on.

    • Rich
      September 30, 2016 at 5:11 am

      Yeah, the spam bots are what killed me using Y! messenger again. AIM was big in my school, but it died just as fast. Since Yahoo! was acquired by Verizon, I've been slowly getting away from their products, and their new messenger isn't even half enticing to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *