October 28, 2005 12:00 PM PDT

Friendster turns up multimedia features

Friendster is adding video and photo-sharing features to its social networking service, highlighting the move toward adding more multimedia capabilities to such services.

Friendster's new capabilities, available now, come through a distribution partnership with Grouper Networks, a start-up that specializes in technology for sharing photos and home videos over the Web. After downloading Grouper's free file-sharing software, Friendster members can invite people to view an unlimited number of photos and videos as well as stream music.

Because Grouper uses peer-to-peer technology, users don't need to upload files to share them, a Friendster representative said. Instead, media files are stored locally on members' PCs, where others can access them. Users can notify friends of new photos and videos by e-mail and instant messaging, the companies said.

Grouper guards against illegal file sharing by monitoring its network for material protected by copyright and by only allowing members to stream rather than download MP3 files, the Friendster representative added.

Friendster's move comes as rivals add more multimedia features. For instance, Facebook, a social-networking site for college students, began allowing members to create online photo albums with no limit on the number of photos they can upload. MySpace, which targets music fans, lets members upload and share songs. And Slide, which launched in August, makes photo-sharing a key aspect of its social networking site.

The multimedia features may also help Friendster keep members coming back. Out of more than 20 million Friendster members, only about 8 million visit the site at least once a month.

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