Social-networking site Bebo Inc. has announced today that it will launch a Microsoft-powered instant-messaging program this fall. The program will allow Bebo users to launch an instant-messaging session within their browsers, regardless of whether they have Live IDs, the sign-ons used for Hotmail and other MS services, as well as contact friends who have are not logged onto Bebo but are using Windows Live Messenger. However, Bebo users will not be able to send instant messages to Windows Live Messenger users who don't have Bebo accounts, and Windows Live Messenger users won't be able to see if their buddies are logged on to Bebo. The social networking site also plans to incorporate Microsoft's address book management tools, but specifics about how the new features will look are still being worked out. The two companies declined to discuss financial terms of the deal.
Although Bebo lags far behind Facebook and Myspace, the two top online social networking sites, it has experienced particularly strong growth in Europe and is now beginning to expand in that region to six new countries including France and Germany. "The partnership, for us, gives us an opportunity to expand more rapidly into more European markets," said Joanna Shields, the company's president of international business; Shields hopes Bebo could piggyback on what she calls Windows Live Messenger's dominance in the region. Additionally, Shields thinks the partnership will help streamline communications between Bebo users: "Why have two windows open when you can do everything in one environment?" While the startup does lets its members connect using eBay Inc.'s Skype Internet calling, the users must download the Skype software first.