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ICQ, the instant messaging service provider created in 1996 by Israeli company Mirabilis, is finally entering the real-time Web and social networking arena with the launch of a social messaging product.
ICQ 7, which was launched worldwide on Sunday after midnight, enables users to integrate many of their online social networks, as well as a number of content networks, in one place.
"ICQ 7 brings social messaging into play, integrating users' online social world with their personal communication tool," said ICQ Managing Director Eliav Moshe at a press launch in Tel Aviv on Monday. "The new version answers users' needs for a quick and easy communication tool that also helps you be up to date with everything that's going on in multiple social networks and content sharing sites. With a loyal community of over 42 million users worldwide, we are working on the upcoming integration of local social networks into ICQ 7 as well."
Moshe added that overall investment in development and marketing of the new product did not exceed $5 million. In Israel there are 1.2 million ICQ active users a month, and 500,000 users a day on average sending 16 million messages.
Side by side with the ICQ contact list, instant messaging users operating the new version can find a separate tab of real-time feeds and updates from their friends in various social networks. In practice it means that users no longer need to open a browser and log into each and every network they're members in, but can focus all of their networks in their ICQ. Users can also comment on their friends' updates from within ICQ, and their comments will be posted on the relevant social network automatically.
At the moment ICQ 7 offers integration of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr, and is soon to announce the integration of local social networks. ICQ 7 also introduces one-click global personal status updates, meaning that users can choose to publish their personal status message across supported social networks on the ICQ 7 interface. The new version also adds a couple of new options aside from the social network integration, such as advanced picture-sharing functionality and the ability to extend your user profile.
The software is fully compatible with all versions of Microsoft Windows, including Windows 7.
ICQ, the brainchild of four Israelis, which was bought by AOL in 1998 for $287 m., has recently been said to be up for sale again. Talks apparently include Google, Facebook investor Digital Sky Technologies and Naspers.
Moshe declined to comment on the sale talks, but added that the planned round of job cuts at AOL, which started last week, would not affect ICQ staff in Israel.
"We are not planning to make any job cuts in the first quarter of the year," said Moshe.