Facebook To Launch Instant Messaging Service

Facebook has been testing a new instant messaging service and will be launching it to the public soon, perhaps in the next week.

Our understanding is that the service will be built into user’s Facebook pages and allow them to web chat with their Facebook friends. We’ve also heard that, like Gtalk, it will be built on the Jabber open source platform, allowing users to add the service to many popular Instant messaging clients like Trillian (Windows) and Adium (Mac). I’d also expect web chat services like Meebo and eBuddy to add support for the service.

This spells trouble for a slew of instant messaging services that third parties have built on Facebook. Social.IM, for example, is one (funded) startup we’ve written about a couple of times. (As is FriendVox from UK startup Techlightenment). Those applications are now basically dead.

The timing on this certainly is interesting. Yesterday AOL talked extensively about marrying their AIM platform with their newly acquired Bebo social network.

There’s a screen shot of this floating around out there somewhere. We’re trying to get our hands on it now.

Update: I’m now hearing that this won’t be Jabber-compliant, at least at first. That means access will be Facebook only unless they create an API and/or third parties figure out a way to hack into the service as they’ve done with Yahoo, MSN and AIM in the past. Also, just to be clear, I have not heard that Facebook intends to launch any desktop software around this.