ICQ Opening IM Client to Developers

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-04-20 Print this article Print

With its latest instant messaging client, ICQ has included a platform called ICQ Xtraz for adding new functionality from partners and eventually from users themselves. New features coming up include online dating, video IM and integration with message boa

In a move that opens its instant-messaging client to developers, America Online Inc.s ICQ division on Tuesday is launching its latest ICQ client with a new approach for adding features. ICQ 4.0 includes the introduction of a platform called ICQ Xtraz through which ICQ, partners and eventually users can create and deliver new features and services to the IM client. Using an open application programming interface (API), developers can create ICQ Xtraz in Flash, HTML or DHTML. The new features then integrate into the client and are dynamically loaded from ICQs server. Users can pick and choose the Xtraz features they want and use them without needing to update the client, an approach that will reduce the number of new client releases for users, said Orey Gilliam, ICQs general manager.
ICQ already has begun making the ICQ API available to partners, including online dating site LavaLife Inc. New features in Version 4.0, including games and a greeting card sender, also are being delivered through the Xtraz approach, officials said.
In May, ICQ is planning to launch video functionality for its client through an Xtraz add-on, said Ronen Arad, director of product management at Israel-based ICQ. Also in the works is integration of access to ICQ message boards, interest groups and multiparty chat rooms from the Web into the ICQ IM client through Xtraz add-ons, he said. Those additions, as well as a quick way to enter ICQs new social-network service called ICQ Universe from within the IM client, are expected in the next few months. Click here to read more about the launch of ICQ Universe. "We wanted to bring the community features on the Web into the client to make it easier for users to interact," Arad said. Gilliam said that by the end of the year ICQ plans to open the Xtraz platform to users, who can create their own specialized features through the API. For now, ICQ is selecting the partners for the earliest development. ICQs push to open its client to new applications and features from partners and even users is different from the other major consumer IM services, such as AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, said Genelle Hung, a market analyst at The Radicati Group Inc., in Palo Alto, Calif. With the Xtraz platform, ICQ is focusing more on community and social networking features, she said. "You have the option of the bare client or having a fully featured one with the greeting cards and games," Hung said. "Theyre going with the client as the window to the world approach." Along with the Xtraz platform, the new ICQ release includes a revamped messaging interface called "Super Message" that helps limit the number of open windows by grouping together IM functions. It also includes a feature called "Follow Me," which lets users forward their IM messages to cell phones. ICQ 4.0 will be available Tuesday in an English version, with other languages to follow. ICQ, which was purchased by AOL in 1998, has 175 million worldwide subscribers and about 8 million active daily users. Last year, AOL provided interoperability between AIM and ICQ so members could message between the services. Check out eWEEK.coms Messaging Center at http://messaging.eweek.com for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.
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Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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