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RealTime IT News

ICQ Passes 50 Million Users, Lures $100 Million

America Online Inc. Wednesday announced it has signed $100 million in e-commerce and marketing agreements for its ICQ instant messaging service. The company also said its ICQ community had passed 50 million registered users.

ICQ is slowly introducing select services and marketing relationships with these valuable brands in ways that make ICQ even more valuable and essential to its users. The company announced partnerships with eBay Inc. (EBAY) , AmericanGreetings.com (AGCM) , 1-800-Flowers (FLWS) and MusicMaker (HITS) will be integrated on the Web via banners and on the ICQ Client via co-branded sites and marketing agreements.

These agreements will enable partners to acquire clients and establish powerful relationships with consumers in the form of targeted content and personalized alerts.

In addition to quadrupling registrations since AOL (AOL) acquired the service in June 1998, AOL said ICQ is also experiencing record daily usage, with the average user keeping ICQ on the desktop for 3 hours and actively using the service more than 1 hour each day.

The ICQ network is now supporting more than 1.2 million simultaneous users second only in the world to the AOL service -- and 8 million users go on the service daily.

AOL's ability to scale large projects has also played a critical role in ICQ's ability to support a record of 1.2 million simultaneous online users and in processing an average of 94,000 new registrants every day - or more than one registered user every second of every day.

"ICQ is growing like wildfire. Its explosion in just three years to 50 million registered users and its emergence as the undisputed global leader in the online communications field are attributable to the power of viral marketing among our users," said Ted Leonsis, president of AOL Interactive Properties Group.

However, not everyone is sold on ICQ's potential.

"The whole problem from day one was that ICQ users tended to be a more savvy, independent Internet user who are particularly averse to being a part of commercial pitches," said David Simons, managing director of Digital Video Investments.

"So permission-based marketing is one of the few steps they can take. It's not even clear how well the ICQ community will accept that. If this doesn't work, it doesn't bode well for being able to monetize the user base at all because if you can't get people to do opt-in marketing, what are you going to do?"