PALO ALTO: Social networking website Facebook is hoping to make even more friends by offering its 60 million members a chat service, to compete with messaging programmes offered by Microsoft, AOL and others.

Says product management vp Matt Cohler: "Chat is something we think is part of the core of what's going on at Facebook."

However, the service will be more limited in its scope than other programmes and will allow individual chats only between Facebook members.

Users will not be charged and the company believes the lure of free chat will be enough to make inroads on rival offers.

Its launch is likely to disappoint independent software developers as it diverts traffic from a handful of the chat applications they have already created for Facebook.  

However, the online firm insists users will retain the option of using a rival service, if they prefer. 

  • Meantime, Facebook has launched a series of privacy measures to allow users control of who sees the information they post on the site.

    The company came under intensive criticism late last year following the launch of its Beacon advertising service, which allowed users to see what their friends had been buying on partner sites.

  • Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff