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Thu, Oct 18, 2007 - Page 10 News List

MySpace, Skype to link social networking and VoIP

AFP , SAN FRANCISCO

MySpace and Skype said on Tuesday they were meshing social networking with Internet telephony, creating the largest voice connected online community on Earth.

The partnership comes as MySpace rival Facebook gains ground and Internet telephony pioneer Skype struggles for ways to profit from the technology.

Skype will craft its voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP) into My-Space instant messaging software worldwide by December, letting Web site members easily call each other's computers free of charge.

MySpace says it has 110 million active monthly users and that 220 million people have Skype accounts. Approximately 25 million MySpace members use its instant messaging (IM) service.

MySpace members will be able to link profiles, photos and animated online personae, referred to as "avatars," to the Skype feature.

"Internet calling is the natural next step for how our members communicate with each other," MySpace chief executive Chris DeWolfe said.

The MySpace IM with Skype service will be available to Web site members in all countries it serves, except Japan, China and Taiwan because of constraints from existing deals.

MySpace users will have the option of using for-fee premium Skype services such as call forwarding, voice mail and calling from computers to landlines or mobile telephones.

"Wherever people are hanging out on the Internet they should be able to use Skype," Skype director of business development Scott Miller said. "MySpace is a great hangout so it is a great way to get Skype to people hanging out on MySpace."

Alliance talks date back to before California-based eBay bought Skype and New York-based News Corp acquired MySpace, Smith said.

Engineers from both companies began work on the project in July after "all the pieces came together," said Kyle Brinkman, vice president of product development at MySpace.

"I think it shows our chops a little as far as technology, not to brag, which helps us with our foothold in Silicon Valley," Brinkman said.

Los Angeles-based MySpace opened an office in San Francisco this week to tap into Silicon Valley engineering talent and creativity.

The Skype service built into MySpace will be a test version. It will be part of instant messaging software downloaded by new users and be available as an upgrade to existing MySpace IM users.

Despite its global popularity, Internet telephony has not become a gold mine for Skype.

Popular online auction company eBay, which bought Skype two years ago for US$2.6 billion, attested to that fact early this month when it devalued the once-darling firm, knocking US$1.43 billion off its value.

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