Back To The 90’s

In the 90’s, the meteoric rise of the Internet and mobile technology ushered in the age of communication.  This caused a massive increase in the ways we were able to communicate.  We had mobile phone calls and texting for offline communications, then online, we had email, IRC, IM, Usenet, message boards, and some others.  Every single one of these had their best use cases.  Some endured, and some faded out.

20-some odd years later, what does the landscape look like?  Texting has endured offline, and online, it seems like things have coalesced around FB Messenger, Snapchat, and WhatsApp.  The individual messenger apps of old, like AIM, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger had faded away.  The new breed of messenger is part of a larger social platform, where your friends and other contacts gather.

It’s no big revelation that there are some privacy concerns with joining a social media platform, which is one reason I ditched them en masse many years ago.  And each time I hear something come up about Facebook, I am just grateful I left when I did.  But that also means that I am cut off from any social communication – well, cut off from any on that particular platform.  Snapchat is a little closer to a peer-to-peer communication client, but still has this concept of a “wall”, where you blast out your life to the world.  That’s not what I’m looking for.

In a parallel world, there has been a growing concern over our IM client at work.  We all understood that all our chats were logged and could be reviewed at any time, but as time went on, it felt like it was a growing liability.  A transition to a new chat client sort of increased that paranoia.

In my personal, parallel word, the GF and I were growing weary of Skype.  The application was unreliable and felt like it was constantly doing updates.  One time, I answered an incoming call, and Skype decided to do an update right then, hanging up the call and shutting down to update itself.  That’s some bullshit, there.

So, with a desire to have simple person-to-person chats, a IM client external to work, and something more stable, led me to revisit an old, old, old IM client: ICQ.  I found my original login information from an old backup and correctly guessed my password from 20 years ago.

It’s hard to believe how the chat landscape has changed.  Windows/Live/MSN Messenger is completely gone.  AIM is gone as well.  Yahoo messenger is still around, but… Yahoo.  ugh.  Staying away from FB, because it’s just a big ad server.  There’s not much left.  It seems the big chat client independent of a social media site is Jabber, which isn’t really a chat platform, it’s a chat client for the XMPP chat protocol.  I did enough research into it to determine it’s just a step too far into geekdom.  I was looking for a plug and play solution, and ICQ fit the bill.

For my work needs, that is, to chat without the company logging our conversations, ICQ was as simple as it could get and although the interface is a little bulky, it accomplishes its goals.  Its simplicity meant it was quickly adopted and used.

For my personal needs – getting rid of Skype – it is actually superior.  The one thing that the GF and I do regularly is video call on Skype.  And I just want to say that a single great feature on one client can completely eliminate the other option.  In this case, during a brief video chat test, I found ICQ’s split screen view.  Skype always keeps your video in a tiny window tucked in the corner of your caller’s video screen.  And if the Skype client isn’t focused, your caller’s video is shrunk down to a tiny window and stuck in the corner of your monitor.

Maybe that works for most people, but when I experienced the split screen view, it was a game changer.  That is the view that I always thought should be used, but I’d never experienced it before.

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