The early days of IRC

In 1988, Internet Relay Chat was born, and opened road for real-time internet text messaging. Maybe one of the most popular online text messaging application in the 90s was the mIRC, where users would chat in rooms, and have private conversations. However, they didn’t have friends list and after logging off, they could receive offline messages.

But how did Romanian managers use this online communication tool? Mugur Patrascu (photo), managing partner at iLeo said he began using mIRC and ICQ to chat with his buddies back in 1999. “I was logged on all day long and when I had the time, I would spend hours in front of the computer”, said Patrascu (blog.ileo.ro).

Laurentiu Pop (see LinkdIn profile), deputy managing director at Httpool Romania, was using mIRC to chat with his high school buds.

Adrian Stanescu, country manager Thinkdigital Romania & Moldova, began his journey into the online communication back in 1998-1999 still with mIRC. “It was more like an entertainment or even dating tool. People would chat in the chat rooms, and users would join the rooms according to the topic. But there were also weird people in these chat rooms, and you couldn’t select the users by yourself. I remember a time when in a Starcraft session break, I came across with a chat room created by an eccentric guy and totally deranged. The room was called «Sex with snakes, mice and other cold animals»”, said Adrian Stanescu (see LinkdIn profile).

Crisit Marinescu, chief executive of Splendid Interactive was also part of the “mIRC” club. “I was getting the hang of all the mIRC tricks… flood, nuke, fake op, I was even having my own chat room. I was online almost all day long, but I was reaching out a new world. By just connecting to the internet you’d face a true challenge. And I was dialing up after 23:00, when Romtelecom charges were cheaper and Xnet and Connex servers were already too busy. I was opening the dial-up connection window at 23:00 sharp, and at about 1-2 there I was, in the chat rooms”, said Marinescu.

Bogdana Butnar, managing director at MRM Worldwide Romania, says Yahoo and MSN Messengers were the first instant messaging tools she used, back in 2000, as they were very popular in the United States. “I began using them when I was in school in the United States to chat with my buddies in Romania and even with those at the college I was going to in the States”, said Bogdana Butnar (bogdanatheplanner.blogspot.com).

Adrian Mihaltianu, business intelligence consultant at MB Dragan says he hadn’t been so drawn to the online chat applications, instant messaging tools like ICQ or Yahoo Messenger were very interesting since the beginning.

“I didn’t use mIRC. ICQ was very popular, but Yahoo Messenger was born and made ICQ less relevant, or even killed it. ICQ’s interface and features were similar to today’s Yahoo Messenger. The downside was the fact that it lasted too long to log in due to modem internet connections. Let’s not forget… it’s the 14.4k era we’re talking about”, said Mihaltianu (see LinkdIn profile).

What made them lose the charm?

According to Dragos Stanca (pictured right), managing director F5, these real-time communication tools didn’t fade away completely, but just don’t make too much sense anymore. “As new efficient technologies emerged like YM, MSN Messenger or Skype, the old ones petered out. But I don’t think that chat tools died, (see Chatroulette example). It’s about an evolution of the concept, not death”, said Stanca (dstanca.ro).

There is no maximum lifespan for this type of business if the idea is adapted and goes in line with the market trend, he added.

The models didn’t vanished into thin air, they upgraded to a more content-rich tools. As the internet connection speed increased, these tools took on new movie, photo, audio files sharing features. The new tools enable users to create a personal profile and create platforms to host flexible open-source applications and to insert all kind of widgets.

A business model doesn’t have a limited lifespan, but the way you make business can bring you success or lack of relevance.

“MySpace and Hi5 are going down, and Facebook is on the rise. They all have the same old business model, but different approaches. And at a certain point each made decisions that led to their decay or growth. There is one thing for sure in the Internet world, and that is that there is no sure guarantee or approach. New ideas could pop in anytime that can lead to new things and shape a new hierarchy. There is an analogy with the materials that become viral or not for no apparent reason. And you can look at the Twitter or Chatroulette, that witnessed an outstanding progress from simple ideas. In Romania, the number of Facebook users doubled twice in the past 12 months.”

Adrian Mihaltianu says the average “life expectancy” of these business models is a decade, judging by the short history we have at hand. The chat tools used in the past are now simple features of more complex service pack.