America Online is set to release a new version of ICQ Internet chat software that will include many portal-style features.
The online giant bought Mirabilis Software, the makers of ICQ in June for $287 million, gaining with it 11 million users of the instant messaging software. That number has nearly doubled to over 21 million users.
The acquisition wasn?t welcomed by a large number of dedicated ICQ users who liked the absence of advertisements and feared that once it was brought under AOL?s multi-brand umbrella, it would lose the feeling of a community.
It appears now that AOL is hoping to capitalise on that community feel by adopting certain portal features, allowing users to get news and content and a search facility without having to leave their preferred environment. The company, however insists the new ICQ will not be a portal in the traditional sense.
According to US reports the new client, ICQ99 will include a Web search feature which executes queries from ICQ, and returns the results within a browser. The ICQ icon will sit on the user?s desktop ready to be activated at any time, rather than a Web-based portal that is only accessible online.
It is unsure as to whether banner advertisements will be introduced in the future, but it is clear that AOL will want to find a way of making money, and one way is to establish partnerships with companies to include the usual stock of content and links such as news, sport, personal finance and weather.
ICQ will link to several other Web search engines including Excite, Lycos, AOL, Altavista and Hotbot. Yahoo, however, declined to be included.
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