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5/5/2009
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hi5 Launches Instant Messaging Service

Social networking site lets members communicate directly with each other from within a browser.

Online social media site hi5 has launched hi5 IM.

The instant messaging service runs within Web browsers, allowing users to interact while viewing each others' profiles, playing games, and accessing hi5's other content. The service, which launched Tuesday, doesn't require downloads. Hi5 Networks said the service allows its users to communicate instantly in a more personal and expressive manner.

Charles Ying, lead software architect for hi5 IM, said the service adds to the site's sense of community.

"hi5 IM was, by far, the most requested feature from our users, and we see it as foundational to the immersive, interactive experience that hi5 delivers," he said in a statement released Tuesday. hi5 IM automatically shows users which friends are online, without requiring users to create separate contact lists for instant messaging.

The instant messaging service aims to allow users to send and receive messages, update their status, post profile comments, and share photos more efficiently. It provides animated emoticons, based on the site's signature "star" and integrates user profiles into the contact list. The emoticons' virtual gestures include playing dead, laughing, and crying.

Hi5 Networks boasts 63 million unique visitors each month and ranks among the world's 20 most popular Web sites, according to Alexa. It's available in more than 50 languages and ranks as the top social networking site in several countries in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The social networking site operates on Linux servers and uses Open Social to support development of applications.

The new instant messaging service is immediately available to members worldwide.

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