Bebo adds Microsoft's IM to its social network

Expects access to Windows Live Messenger service will boost user base

Bebo, operator of the Bebo social networking site, and Microsoft on Tuesday announced an agreement to offer the Windows Live Messenger instant messaging service to Bebo users.

The agreement also calls for offering users of Bebo's site access to Microsoft's Windows Contacts application programming interface to share contact information with one another. The agreement marks the first time Microsoft has agreed to offer its IM and contact tools to a social network, it said.

Bebo users who use Windows Messenger -- even those without a Windows Live ID -- can add an "IM Me" icon to their profile page, which will allow them to begin IM conversations with a single click, the two companies said.

Joanna Shields, Bebo's international president, noted that the partnership will allow Bebo to take advantage of the Windows Live Messenger user base, which has 280 million active users per month, to build the user base of its social network.

"Our agreement with Microsoft Windows Live delivers a powerful, new way to instantly update and keep in touch with friends and serves to make the Bebo user experience even more compelling and interactive," Shields said in a statement.

San Francisco-based Bebo has seen marked expansion of traffic over the past year, according to comScore. The online measurement firm reported that the number of unique online visitors to Bebo.com grew by 172 percent from June 2006 to June 2007.

In addition, ComScore reported that Bebo became the most visited social networking site within the U.K. in July, attracting 10.6 million unique visitors. The latter total represents a 63 percent in that country since the beginning of the year, comScore said.

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