Social networking site Bebo, with a 36-million-strong member base centered primarily in the U.K., announced Tuesday that it has partnered with Microsoft on a new instant messaging initiative. The Windows Live Messenger service, formerly known as MSN Messenger, is now the fuel behind Bebo's new internal IMing operations.
Bebo users who have hooked their Windows Live usernames up to the service have an "IM Me" button on their profiles that they can use to communicate with other members in-browser if they're online, but Bebo's IM is also open to members without Windows Live Messenger. Essentially, the partnership integrates existing Windows Live accounts into Bebo and also provides a robust base for the Web-based chat interface.
Don't think that this deal necessarily has broader implications in today's acquisition-happy digital media culture--the Microsoft partnership is strictly limited to Windows Live Messenger at this point. Bebo's internal search, after all, is powered by Yahoo, which has been talked up as a possible buyer for the independent social networking site.
Rival MySpace launched its instant messaging service earlier this summer, but has kept it separate from other IM clients like Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger, or AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). Facebook, meanwhile, does not offer an internal IM service--but several third-party developers have created them for the Facebook Platform.