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ICQ Targets Third-Party IM Developers

Moving to position the ICQ instant messaging client as a plug-and-play platform for a range of interactive features, America Online's ICQ division on Tuesday announced the availability of application programming interface (API) for developers and a new ICQ Xtraz platform to easily integrate third party applications.

With the launch of ICQ 4.0, the company is introducing ICQ Xtraz as an open IM platform supporting the creation and delivery of automatic updates and new features to ICQ users. ICQ Xtraz will work alongside the new API , which lets developers create add-ons in HTML, DHTML or Flash.

Once developer partners create Xtraz, they can then be loaded into the ICQ client without requiring a complicated user download. According to ICQ director of product management Ronen Arad, customers will have the ability to choose which Xtraz they want loaded on the client. "It cuts down on full client upgrades and keeps us in control of the list of Xtraz," Ronen said in an interview with internetnews.com

"We have very high hopes to this new concept. It's already being used by some of our partners to reach the ICQ user base," Arad added.

Online dating service Lavalife has already licensed the ICQ API to develop an add-on for the ICQ client. The Lavalife Xtra lets ICQ users search, post information and receive responses from potential dates, all within the IM client.

ICQ 4.0 also ships with single-user and multi-player games, a birthday reminder service and a "follow me" feature to let users forward ICQ messages to mobile phones. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, Ronen said. He also hinted at plans to add video messaging functionality later this year.

Plans are also in place to roll out Xtraz for access to message boards, the ICQ social network service and multi-party chat rooms.

"With this concept, the IM client becomes the gateway to Web activities out there. Once the new Xtraz are added to the list, the users get a notification and they can manually browse the list and select the ones they want to add," Arad explained.

"We're bringing something very unique in terms of the thinking of where IM should go. It's a very pioneering approach to the IM world."