In a move that was not entirely unexpected, America Online took advantage of ICQ's little known 'Auto Update' Monday, modifying all ICQ
2000a clients to display advertisements while using its 'Send URL' and Birthday features. The ads are 335x57 pixels and appear below the ICQ windows.
First noticed by Internet "counter culture" group, The Kult, ICQ users started seeing advertisements late Monday afternoon after launching the ICQ application. Based on initial observations, it seems ICQ must be restarted before Auto Update kicks in to patch the client. For those not yet affected, the Auto Update feature can still be disabled before the client is patched. Although Auto Update can no longer be turned off by the ICQ preferences dialog, there is a registry value that can be changed to give the same effect.
Users who wish to prevent Auto Update from kicking in, can open the
Window's Registry Editor and browse to the
"HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Mirabilis\ICQ\Owners\(Your UIN)\Prefs" key, locate a key value named "Auto Update", and changing it's value to
Understandably, the new advertisements have not exactly been welcomed with enthusiasm.
One long time ICQ user writes, "I am disgusted by the way ICQ [is] treating it's users- I distinctly remember an option to disable
AutoUpdate in previous versions." AOL, which owns the ICQ franchise, has included advertisements in its similar AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) client for several years. Some had predicted, correctly, that it would only be a matter of time before that
strategy was applied to its widely used ICQ application.