The next version of America Online Inc.’s (AOL) Instant Messenger (AIM) will allow users to communicate with ICQ users in a move that will bridge the gap between the company’s two popular chat services.
AOL is currently beta testing the interoperability in its AOL 5.1 beta, company spokeswoman Anne Bentley said Tuesday. Currently, the beta client allows AIM users to add ICQ users to their “Buddy Lists,” view when they are online and send them instant messages. But although ICQ users can receive messages from AIM users, they cannot yet add them to their Buddy Lists, Bentley said.
The spokeswoman added that “hopefully” the next version of ICQ would support AIM users.
Bentley told MacCentral this evening that the functionality is something they hope to give to Apple’s iChat users as well, but stressed they are still in the early stages of testing.
The move could be an effort by the company to swell the numbers of its IM users as it faces increasing competition from rival services such as Yahoo Inc.’s Messenger and MSN Messenger.
AOL acquired ICQ from Israel-based Mirabilis in 1998. While AIM has proven popular with U.S. users, ICQ has a stronghold in the international market. By allowing the two IM services to communicate, AOL could potentially balloon its user base.
Jim Dalrymple contributed to this report.