These were times. When Polish internet conversations relied almost exclusively on Gadu-Gadu

The Facebook Messenger is today the dominant communicator in Poland and worldwide. I remember, however, the times when no foreign service of this type had the slightest chance in the fight for the domestic market from Gadu-Gadu.

Sometimes it happens that Poles resist globally dominant inventions. A perfect and still current example is even Allegro, which did not even move when once powerful eBay opened to the Polish market and which still performs well despite the existence of Amazon. However, I remember something even more impressive.

The success of Gadu-Gadu seems to be unique and one of a kind. This messenger was a nightmare, uncomfortable and very badly protected. And yet he managed to conquer the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Internet users, even he came to the International Space Station. The competition in the form of Windows Messenger, ICQ or Skype was almost completely ignored by Polish Internet users. And a necessary condition for the success of other Polish communicators of that time - such as the popular Tlen.pl - was compliance with the Gadu-Gadu network. If the application did not allow communication with friends from "Giegie", in principle, its use did not make much sense.

Gadu-Gadu. So, Polish ICQ.

At first, Gadu-Gadu was not designed as a messenger. Ba, originally even had a different name. The application was called SMS-Express and served to, what its name suggests, conveniently send text messages via the Internet. Because yes, once text messages were paid and expensive. That is why almost every cellular network made a web interface available for sending them, from which we could send several free and anonymous (unless we ourselves sign) messages daily. SMS-Express provided convenient access to all SMS gateways in the window of one simple application.

The application was the work of Łukasz Foltyn, a well-known figure in the Polish IT environment, probably mainly due to the popular and quite good anti-virus application MKS_Vir. Recognizable name and growing popularity of SMS-Express attracted the attention of investors. And the first ideas for the development of applications appeared in the newly created SMS-Express.com company. And what if it were to become partially independent of SMS operators' gates?

It was decided to create an Israeli and dominant clone on the global ICQ communicator market. The application was to be adapted to the specifics of Polish Internet users and keep the possibility of sending SMSs free of charge. The idea, it might seem trivial, but no one has ever thought of it. How important was the Polish communicator interface? So important that even the creators of Gadu-Gadu did not foresee it.

The Messenger almost immediately conquered the Internet.

Version 3.0 of the SMS-Express application changed its name to Gadu-Gadu and introduced the possibility of free text chat between the owners of this application. Each user received an individual Gadu-Gadu number, to which we could assign our name, surname, age, gender and nickname. We could also determine if we are active, something busy (status "I'll be right back") or we could disconnect from the network and use only SMSs.

The statuses symbolized the icons of sunshine characteristic for Gadu-Gadu. The emoticons entered with the keyboard were automatically replaced with funny graphic animated equivalents. The notification of the new message was advertised with a sound borrowed from the Microsoft Expansion Pack for Windows 98. The messenger also had a profile browser, and that these were times when there were very few Polish internet users, it was a useful mechanism for meeting new people. Are you looking for a boy at the age of 16? Click, click, and already - list of profiles. That's how my first girlfriend in my life found me, which resulted in a long-term relationship ...

Already on the first day after the application was made available - August 15, 2000 - the service could boast 10,000. registered users. A year later, there were a quarter of a million. Nobody, with the creators of Gadu-Gadu, did not anticipate such a spectacular success of the service. And that was just the beginning.

Every second Polish internet user from Gadu-Gadu.

The messenger has achieved incredible popularity and recognition in a very short time, almost completely cementing the Polish market of Instant Messaging (IM) services. This has naturally aroused the appetite of its creators, who decided on the foundations of Gadu-Gadu to build a whole ecosystem of services for communicator users.

In May 2005, the GG Generation social networking site was launched, which was later renamed My Generation. He allowed, just like the competition from that time, to set up profiles with business cards and to write public posts - on the profile or in thematic groups. SMS-Express also bought Fora.pl, making it easier to set up Internet forums that were extremely popular in those times. But that's not the end.

SMS-Express made sure that the Gadu-Gadu was often talked about in the media. And just as today, we can talk to companies and stores on Messengeer, so in 2005, the Tok FM radio, Złote Przeboje radio or the guardian of Doda's image or Gosia Andrzejewicz had their profile on Gadu-Gadu. Wiadomosci24.pl had their own GG number, which could be used to report news to reporters. Business was thriving at its best.

However, the most successful of the additional services was the built-in ... radio.

I mean Gadu Radio (later called Open.FM), which was added to the communicator in 2006 and quickly became the most-listened Internet radio in Poland. No wonder, since according to research, every second Polish internet user used this application. This popularity was also becoming a bigger problem for the service itself: Gadu-Gadu server rooms often did not withstand users' pressure, which resulted in even several hours of failures during which the communicator did not work.

Few, however, were concerned about such "trifles". In the same year, the web version of the application was created, and SMS-Express made its debut on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. However, the history of Gadu-Gadu's huge successes is slowly coming to an end. The communicator did not resemble a Polish, homely and unlearned application, which almost everyone loved. The service was very professional, offering a lot of less or more useful accessories. Gadu-Gadu faced not only ICQ or Tlen.pl and the like, but also Skype, MySpace or Facebook. It was not enough resources and competences to keep this competition at an appropriate level. After all, they tried.

Already a year later, Gadu-Gadu changed the owner. And then it began to pass from hands to cancer.

At the end of 2007, it was announced that Gadu-Gadu was taken over by the South African Naspers concern. A few months later, a brand new client application was built from scratch, as well as other services: Pykam.pl, simple browser multiplayer games and zRodziną, to build together family trees. None of the services, apart from the Open.FM mentioned above, is gaining much interest.

2008 is the moment when Gadu-Gadu achieved absolute mastery in marketing. The Polish messenger has become the first application of its kind in the world, used in space. Gadu-Gadu users could ask questions to astronauts from the International Space Station by sending them to a profile created especially for this occasion. The conversation was of course moderated and there was no direct connection with the crew via the GG protocol, so determining the Gadu-Gadu first communicator used outside the Earth is a bit exaggerated, but it is actually irrelevant. To this day, the world's largest internet giants envy Gadu-Gadu such advertising.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1I7BXwyU70

A year later, the first Gadu-Gadu virtual cellular network GaduAIR was created and an extremely successful Twitter clone called Blip was launched, which functionality outperformed the original, though ... often did not work, bending under the pressure of the Internet users. Once again, the client application was rebuilt, this time taking into account the growing popularity of mobile applications. Gadu-Gadu is experiencing the peak of its popularity: 10.5 million active IM users and 3 million Open.FM listeners.

Unfortunately, from now on it will only get worse.

Pushing dozens of small services to the messenger was designed to increase its usability and provide developers with the potential to increase revenue. The problem is that the application itself suffered. Gadu Gadu version 10.x seems the version in which the goblet of bitterness was shed. The application was huge, it required a lot of resources from the computer and had an overloaded interface.

The number of active users has begun to decrease inexorably. In January 2013, 6.14 million users used the messenger, and in August 2015 this number decreased to 3.6 million. The service operates today, but according to research from two years ago, it has less than 1.5 million.

As long as Gadu-Gadu kept to his plot - and thus being a simple internet communicator - it was impossible to move. And this despite the notorious problems with the unreliability of the service and its very poor security. Its creators, instead of focusing on expanding into new systems and smartphones, have decided to buy or create dozens of messaging-related and monetizable micro-services.

It is not clear what led the people who led the development of the service.

I suspect, however, that the decisions made were not due to greed or ineptitude. Maintaining such a popular network from year to year was more and more expensive, and Gadu-Gadu could not count on the effect of scale in displaying its advertising banners, which was used by the global competition. However, this is only my theory, which is difficult to verify.

Gadu-Gadu is still breathing, and even some investors are considering co-financing this service. Today, however, the IM world, also in Poland, is ruled by Facebook. And it seems extremely unlikely that any competition could threaten him. Messenger's biggest competitor, and therefore WhatsApp, also belongs to Facebook. Skype is constantly losing users, and inventions like Telegram or Signala are popular mainly in their niches.

Gadu-Gadu is, along with IRC, all my internet youth. At the time of my high school, absolutely all my internet-connected friends had their own GG number, almost every non-technical layman associated the name Gadu-Gadu. I have dozens of memories associated with this service, and she is one of the most important chapters of the Polish Internet. These were times in which the Polish service played on the nose of large foreign corporations. It is a pity they have gone down in history.



These were times. When Polish internet conversations relied almost exclusively on Gadu-Gadu

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