America Online Inc. has released an alpha version of its ICQ messaging client that allows for instant messages to be exchanged between ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger users for the first time.
The software, ICQ Lite build #1211, was released Monday, according to ICQs Web site.
Usage of ICQ has declined as of late, with many instant messaging users opting for AOL Instant Messenger. According to data from ComScore Media Metrix, only six million Internet users used ICQ in May, while more than 33 million used AOL Instant Messenger during the same period.
Several instant message users who spoke with eWEEK thought the introduction of messaging between AIM and ICQ was too little, too late. One joked, "This AIM/ICQ compatibility wont do me much good as I stopped using my ICQ account shortly before retiring my TELEX number."
In May, Microsoft and America Online announced that they would collaborate for interoperability between MSN Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger. ICQ was not mentioned in the agreement.
In Fall of 2000, a test version of AIM was released which allowed for ICQ users to message each other using the AIM software, though there was no interoperability between the two networks.
AOL bought ICQ parent Mirabilis Ltd. in 1998 for $287 million.
America Online did not respond to requests for comment.