NovaWiz messaging piggybacks ICQ

Company says its Odigo 2.0 will let users chat with America Online's 50 million ICQ members

NovaWiz has developed a new version of its Odigo messaging service that attempts to piggyback on America Online's 50-million ICQ users by connecting to the popular instant messaging program.

NovaWiz on Monday released Version 2.0 of Odigo. The new version lets users download their contact list from ICQ and chat with those ICQ users via the Odigo program.

Avner Ronen, vice president of strategic development at NovaWiz, would not explain exactly how the Odigo-ICQ hookup works, but he said the company took advantage of ICQ-like software programs that have been floating around the Internet for some time.

"It's not official shareware," he said. "They're more like a version done by ICQ fans."

Ronen said NovaWiz did not contact AOL before releasing the product and has not yet heard from the Net giant.

AOL has strongly fought off attempts to integrate third-party instant messaging programs with its AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) product, another messaging program.

Between ICQ and AIM, AOL dominates the instant messaging market with more than 80 million users.

Both Microsoft and Tribal Voice, a division of CMGI, had developed instant messaging programs that interacted with AIM. AOL was able to successfully block Microsoft, which eventually gave up trying to interconnect its users.

Tribal Voice's software, which is used by AT&T's WorldNet and by AltaVista, another CMGI firm, has managed to stay connected.

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