SweetIM generates ad revenue with four million content pieces sent through its system daily.Who hasn’t been nudged, winked at or been shot a smiley face through cyberspace? Pretty much everyone. In the 25 years since emoticons were invented these helpful pictograms have evolved from text to cartoons – even animation – as more and more people, including grandparents and little kids, use them each day in emails and instant messaging applications to convey feelings when words don’t suffice.

What many users don’t know is that an Israeli company, SweetIM, is a world-leading emoticon provider. Thanks to SweetIM (and whether you like it or not) you can get pirates knocking on your computer screen with their hook, screeching little girls, and thousands of other surprises, says Iftah Yair, the VP of marketing and business development of SweetIM, who spoke with ISRAEL21c.

“We are so much more than emoticons,” explains Yair, whose team of 30 develops cutting-edge technology to deliver SweetIM’s amusing content. For example: how about a “wink” that will break your IM screen into a thousand pieces? (The effect only lasts two minutes, says Yair). Or theme-related animated characters to send your friends during special events like the Olympics?

“It’s fun to work in a company that does fun things,” says Yair whose personal favorite is an animated character – a wink – who opens the screen to say, “I can’t talk, my boss is here.”

Founded in 2005, SweetIM is based in Raanana, Israel. It’s privately funded and became profitable two years ago, thanks to its downloadable toolbar and search function which is co-branded with Google. With some 30 million downloads to date, representing about 90 million users, SweetIM generates ad revenue with the help of about four million content pieces being sent through their system daily.

And it’s simple to get started. After downloading SweetIM’s spyware-free and adware-free toolbar, and reopening their instant messaging window, users can immediately begin clicking on a gallery of emoticons to fit any whim and start sending them to their heart’s content through instant messaging, web-based emails; blogs and social networking groups. Says Yair, “We have developed a technology that makes our product so easy to use. other companies are not even close to doing what we’ve achieved.”

The company makes it clear to users that it does not collect any personal information and is not bundled with any third party application. SweetIM earns revenues by monetizing the search service it provides. When users click a “sponsored web result” on the search results page, a portion of the ad revenue generated by the search engine is shared with SweetIM. In addition, when users send content to a mobile device, the mobile operator shares the revenues with SweetIM.

SweetIM supports America Online’s AIM, (the most popular messenger platform in the US), Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger (it hopes to release Messenger Plus support this fall). The browser toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox lets users add emoticons to web applications such as webmail (Gmail, Hotmail/Live, Yahoo mail, etc.), social network posts (MySpace, Live Spaces, Facebook, etc.), forums, blogs, and more.

The company maintains an online forum, including behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, “how to” explanations, contests, and answers to user feedback. SweetIM adds new content every two weeks.

SweetIM and Google share ad revenue, and have extended their agreement for five more years, says Yair. That translates to at least five more interesting years and probably an even newer generation of futuristic winks, nudges and pirates.