ICQ Due For Overhaul

Gretchen Gallen
TEL AVIV – ICQ, the instant messenger service of choice for the online adult world, is reportedly due for an overhaul, at least according to its parent company, America Online.

The popular service, which stands for "I Seek You," currently has an estimated 8 million daily users and a global user base of more than 175 million.

According to AOL, which bought the ICQ system manufacturer Mirabilis in 1998, the next software incarnation, ICQ Version 4.0, will include instant gaming features and other applications that more closely resemble the functions of a desktop browser.

ICQ 4.0 will include a new interface, greeting cards and new cell phone text-messaging capabilities, CNET reports.

ICQ 4.0 gaming features will be offered in conjunction with Oberon Media, which specializes in the "casual gaming market" for a variety of distribution networks, including instant messaging platforms.

The official unveiling of ICQ 4.0 will take place next week, the company said Friday.

In conjunction with that launch, ICQ is also reportedly on the verge of greenlighting a developer's program for its 4.0 gaming initiative and recently launched dating service Lava Life, an online interactive dating community for singles.

According to CNET, both Oberon and Lava Life have already released application programming interfaces that run on ICQ 4.0, which are downloaded and installed much like plug-ins.

After the official unveiling of ICQ 4.0, developers will be able to use programming interfaces to create almost any kind of program that would run with ICQ in HTML, DHTML and Flash.

In March, ICQ launched a social networking service called ICQ Universe. The new service is intended to compete directly with Friendster, Lycos, Tickle, and InterActive Corp.

Arranged more like an online dating service, ICQ Universe creates an instant messenging connection not just between users, but between the contact names in each other their contact directories based on member profiles and compatibility.