ICQ as a P2P Pioneer

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Tim O'Reilly
Nov. 08, 2001 06:17 PM

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Yossi Vardi, the founding investor in Mirabilis, the company that created ICQ, and father of Arik Vardi, who wrote the ICQ protocol, gets on my case every time I see him because he says I don't give enough credit to ICQ for its pioneering work on P2P. (For example, we didn't mention it in the Peer to Peer book or our new P2P research report.)

Yossi was at the P2P Conference this week, and he showed me the original ICQ press release from back in November 1996. The headline: "MIRABILIS LTD. PROVIDES NEW SOLUTIONS FOR PEER-TO-PEER INTERNET COMMUNICATIONS."

The press release does use a lot of client-server language rather than the p2p terminology we've all been slinging around since Napster. Peer-to-peer seems to be used mainly as a term to describe the interaction between users. But Yossi points out that even in its first release, ICQ used an approach that offloaded a lot of the work onto the clients, allowing them to support 500,000 simultaneous connections on a small number of low-powered boxes. I'd love to see more detail on this from someone at ICQ.

Yossi, always the ICQ evangelist (even though he long ago sold the company to AOL) also showed me that google comes up with 6 million hits for ICQ, vs. only 1.5 million for Madonna.

Tim O'Reilly is the founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, Inc., thought by many to be the best computer book publisher in the world. In addition to Foo Camps ("Friends of O'Reilly" Camps, which gave rise to the "un-conference" movement), O'Reilly Media also hosts conferences on technology topics, including the Web 2.0 Summit, the Web 2.0 Expo, the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, the Gov 2.0 Summit, and the Gov 2.0 Expo. Tim's blog, the O'Reilly Radar, "watches the alpha geeks" to determine emerging technology trends, and serves as a platform for advocacy about issues of importance to the technical community. Tim's long-term vision for his company is to change the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators. In addition to O'Reilly Media, Tim is a founder of Safari Books Online, a pioneering subscription service for accessing books online, and O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, an early-stage venture firm.