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From Russia, With Chat?




AOL Running ManAOL continues to travel into the brave new world that it is venturing into as the lines have been cut that once attached it to TimeWarner. Of course, there will be a lot of scrutiny which often leads to criticisms but that’s just part of doing business. Another part of doing business as a solo act is to make sure that you lean more toward ‘lean and mean’ which may mean trying to shed some business units that are not going to be helping AOL address its core competencies (which is another matter seeking clarity so feel free to chime in if you are from AOL).

TechCrunch is reporting that ICQ, which was purchased by AOL back in the Roaring 90’s (I am not even sure that term makes any sense but I am sticking with it) is getting attention from Google and DST (Digital Sky Technologies) whose biggest splash in ’09 was giving more money to Facebook.

ICQ, which AOL acquired in 1998 for $400 million, has 33 million worldwide monthly users, according to Comscore. But 8.3 million of those are in Russia, where it hold the no. 1 spot for instant messaging. That explains DST’s interest. It also explains some of Google’s interest as they struggle to get a proper foothold in that market.

We concentrate heavily on the Internet marketing world for the English speaking world but the growth for companies like Google etc are in the large international audiences. Consider that Google has introduced 38 new search products over the last 70 days and language translation is heavily featured. Of course there would be significant interest in acquiring a ‘ready made’ audience in Russia.

Is DST thinking the same way for Facebook? Why not, especially when the rumored price for ICQ and its users was somewhere north of $250 million but not likely anywhere near its price of 11 years ago. It could be a true bargain.
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As with many business activities timing is an important part of the measure of success or failure. Since AOL is in a position to move ICQ and please its shareholders the timing may be right for a little showdown at the Siberian Corral between DST and Google. Interesting: yes or nyet?