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Meebo Mixes Instant Messaging With Social Networking

The company now offers 20 interactive games that command as much time as the average Internet session.

Instant Messaging, already an addictive time-sink and workday distraction, now has the potential to claim even more hours of your day.

Meebo, a Web site that offers users access to six different IM networks and other real-time communications services, on Tuesday began offering its users access to 20 games that run atop the recently launched Meebo Platform.

The Meebo Platform lets developers access Meebo's Application Programming Interface (API) to create multi-user, interactive applications that are tied to Meebo's browser-based messaging environment.

The new games include Animal Puzzle, Artillery, Backgammon, Battle Pool, Blackjack, Checkers, Chess, Connect4, Go, Kongregate Racing, Match4, Music Man, Picture This!, Pirate War, Platform Racing, Reversi, Sheep Me, Sploder, Sudoku Wars, Tactics 100, Texas Hold 'em, and World Travel Puzzle. They come from software developers like 3rd Sense, Absolutist, Clearspring Technologies, Come2Play, Gamebrew, MediaGreenhouse, Mochi Media, MyGraffitiWall, Jiggmin, Kongregate, PlayFirst, Presidio Studios, and ZeroCode. Games can be launched by clicking on a rocket icon visible after opening an IM session with anyone on the user's contact list. Doing so invites the contact to participate in an interactive game.

With the launch of games and its other recently introduced services like voice chat, group voice calling, video and audio calling and live broadcasting, Meebo has graduated from an innovative Web service to a full-fledged social network.

"Really, what we want is to be the site where people come to interact live," said Seth Sternberg, CEO of Meebo.

With 6 million unique monthly users, Meebo can't quite match the audience of Facebook, which boasts 55 million members. But Meebo commands a greater share of its users' time.

According to Sternberg, the average Meebo session lasts about two and half hours, which happens to be as long as the average Internet session. While not all of that time represents active use -- Sternberg said that Meebo's browser window is active 43% of that time -- that's still over an hour face time.

According to Internet metrics firm Hitwise, the average Facebook session -- as measured in the U.K. in April -- lasts about 14 minutes and the average MySpace session lasts about 25 minutes.

Meebo's live social model thus appears to offer significantly longer exposure to advertising. And with that comes revenue potential.

Sternberg said that that Meebo would soon begin putting ads into applications and splitting the revenue with developers. He also said that Meebo planned to give developers the option of hooking their own ad service to the site, in conjunction with a revenue sharing arrangement.

At the end of the month, Meebo plans to hold a developer conference at its Mountain View, Calif. office. It'll probably be a full house.

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