Grrrr…. AOL…. grumble, grumble…

I have been a faithful user of ICQ for the last couple of years. It was a great little program that allowed me to easily communicate with friends across the web. I had even managed to talk some other folks to use it.

On June 8, 1998 America Online purchased Israel based Mirabilis, developers ICQ. In the aftermath, there were paranoid rumblings from folks who believed that AOL would force users to start paying for the service. My family, God love them, forwarded the same alarmist message to me on three separate occasions! So far, that hasn’t happened.

What has happened since then is that the program has slowly but surely gone to crap.

Recently, I went to the ICQ site to see if I had the latest upgrade. It wasn’t until I went through the download, install, yada, yada, yada process, that I realized my mistakes. (What is that you said? Backups? :cough:)

The version that I had downloaded was actually a beta version of ICQ. The fact that it was beta wasn’t marked as prominently as the latest version of Microsoft bugware. Rather, the links to the “official” version was in such a small, inconspicuous type that I didn’t even see it.

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

(Did I mention that I’m human? Good!)

After using the new ICQ 2001b for a few weeks, I’ve reached some conclusions.

PRO

The new ICQ finally puts an end to the problem of carrying contact lists between computers. It very handily uploads the contact database to a server somewhere so that if I log in from Timbuktu (or Lancaster, Ohio, which is almost as obscure) using ICQ 2001b, I still have my contacts. It also makes it better for folks who share computers. For instance, hubby can log in to ICQ and see his contacts. After he logs out of ICQ, I can log in and see my contacts. This change is, IMO, way over-due. Good job, ICQ!

Believe it or not, that’s it on the PRO list. Guess that’s not a good sign, eh?

CONS

ICQ 2001b starts about as well as a car with a nearly dead battery. Sluggish doesn’t even begin to describe it! From start to finish on my PII 400MHz laptop, it takes about 2 minutes… on a good day. About a fifth of the time, it gets stuck, and nothing short of a reboot seems to help recover.

On first glance, it appears that someone is making an attempt to merge the functions of the AOL Instance Messenger and ICQ. The result is a rather clunky usability nightmare. (Where’s Jakob Nielsen when he needs something to rant about?) Having the smiley face functionality available in message exchanges is cute, but not necessary.

There was apparently some effort to remove some of the “bloat” that had crept into previous versions of ICQ. One of the big changes that I noticed was that Reminders seem to be removed. Stupid twits! I actually USED that function! I would have much rather had the reminders than the smiley faces. And I’m sure anyone who expected a birthday card from me on time would prefer that I had it too.

I’ve read that there were other changes too. However, since I never used those functions, I don’t really mind. I guess that’s the problem with eliminating bloat. You’ll likely never get two users to agree on what exactly constitutes “bloat”.

The most disastrous change that seems to be somehow related to the ICQ 2001b upgrade is that it doesn’t seem terribly compatible with older versions of ICQ. Since I upgraded, I’ve noticed that there are several contacts who were appeared online frequently that now don’t every appear online. There are others who I have chatted with almost daily since I installed ICQ that cannot send messages to me at all.

I’ve been browsing through the newsgroups, and it appears that ICQ is making an effort to force people to upgrade to the newer versions of ICQ. So the servers that relayed traffic to and from the older versions (2000b and before) aren’t working very well anymore. Some people, I’ve read, can’t connect to the ICQ servers through 99a at all!

Now, I understand why AOL (or whoever is yanking the corporate chains now) would want people to upgrade. It costs money to support multiple versions, and the old ICQ didn’t have the banner ads that supply at least a little income. I’m not one of those who expects something for nothing. At the same time, I am royally peeved that they aren’t being forthright about the repercussions of using an older version. Tell the users “service will degrade”. Send the users of the older versions an email saying, “Hey! Upgrade or die!” Something. Anything! But don’t leave users of the old version AND the new version to try to figure out why the heck they can no longer communicate! This is especially true when the version that is being held up at the “new, improved” version is so buggy and lacks the functionality of the previous version!

So for now, it seems I’m stuck. If I’ve stopped talking to people on ICQ, it’s not that I’m ignoring you. It’s more likely that I can’t see you. I’ve been checking the ICQ site every day or so and updating with the “latest” version that seems to appear about once a week. If you can, at least upgrade to the 2000b version. It seems to be more compatible with the newest version. Who knows. Maybe it will eventually be completely compatible.

One thought on “Grrrr…. AOL…. grumble, grumble…

  1. Pat

    Personally,I think you were too easy on AO-HELL.
    In my experience,every time they stick their fingers in the gear box,the gears grind to a halt soon after.I suppose to their way of thinking,instead of making any of their programs more user compatible they just figure to buy the good programs and if it can’t be re-written and complicated then they just kill it completly.
    ICQ is a prime example of this.ICQ was the BEST instant message program to be found online until aol got ahold of it.Just like most government entities,they take something simple and proceed to complicate it to the best of their abilities.
    That usually means that the only people that can use it are the ones that made it that way.
    Remember when ‘they’ were going to make computers as easy to use as telephones? Yeah,right!! And what dids they dream about last night? What happened to telephones as a result of that idea? If you can get one to just do the original job it was made for (i.e.-dial a number and connect to another phone)you are lucky.
    I’ll stop now,otherwise this could turn into a book and then someone will take that and complicate it too…Pasnthru.

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