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MySpace officially launches instant messaging service

The News Corp.-owned social network, having ditched its old browser-based IM service, formally unveils the new download after a year of buzzless beta.

MySpace has announced the official beta release of its MySpaceIM instant messaging service which soft-launched informally a year ago. According to a release from MySpace, over 17 million of the social networking site's 180 million members worldwide have installed the downloadable client.

MySpace, which was acquired by News Corp. in 2005, used to operate a browser-based instant messaging service, which it has since phased out.

Sample screenshots of MySpaceIM MySpace

The MySpaceIM service competes with other ubiquitous and well-established instant messaging clients, like Yahoo Instant Messenger, Microsoft's Windows Live Messenger, and the formidable AOL Instant Messenger. But MySpaceIM hopes to set itself apart from the pack with tight integration to the site's homepage and member profiles, as well as media-heavy features like a music player and drag-and-drop image sharing. Also included is a system to alert members when they have new messages in their MySpace inboxes, comments on their profiles, or new friend requests. Localized versions of the tool have been created for all 16 global regions that the company operates.

For Web users who use multiple IM services, Cerulean Studios' popular all-in-one client, Trillian, will support MySpaceIM in its impending Trillian Astra release (currently in an alpha test mode).

The MySpaceIM beta isn't available to all computer and browser users, though: it requires a Microsoft operating system (anywhere from Windows 98 through Vista) and an Internet Explorer browser (version 5.0 or above). In the FAQ for MySpaceIM, the company explains that while the client is in beta, the focus will be on "working out the kinks" in the Windows version but that it has been "assessing various options" for Mac and Linux editions. Additionally, the FAQ continues, a mobile client is in the works.

In its release, MySpace hinted that not only are new MySpaceIM features on the way, but so are other impending announcements, calling the instant messaging client the "first in a series of enhanced products and services the company plans to unveil over the coming months to make it more efficient for MySpace users to express themselves, manage their social lives, and connect with friends."