Photos: 23 milestones in the history of the web

​1996: The first instant messaging apps

Command line chat software and other methods of real-time messaging existed before 1996, but that was the year dedicated instant messaging software hit the internet in the form of ICQ.

ICQ was the first centralized chat app that a user could simply download, install, create an account, and start chatting on. Users of modern IM tools like Slack owe a lot to ICQ, which boasted more than 100 million users at its peak in 2001.

See: More must-read Tech History coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

Image: New York University

By Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature and how-to writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.