updated 1/10/2007 9:12:22 PM ET 2007-01-11T02:12:22

The popular social-networking hangout MySpace.com will officially launch a French version Thursday as it seeks traction in a crowded European market.

The new site — fr.myspace.com — will face competition from established French sites like Skyblog.com, which counts some 6.6 million users, and newer, U.S.-based networking sites that are seeking to expand their horizons.

MySpace, owned by News Corp., has secured advertising deals with a host of French businesses, including national rail network SNCF, French bank BNP Paribas SA and Vivendi SA's telecom branch SFR.

The site already dominates in Britain and Ireland, beating out Bebo.com, locally grown Friends Reunited and MySpace's U.S. rival Facebook.com, according to data from ComScore World Metrix.

Across Europe, MySpace saw the number of unique visitors grow six-fold over the past year. Only Facebook has grown faster, but largely because it started small, beginning 2006 with less than 3 percent of MySpace's visitors.

MySpace is in beta testing in Germany, and an Italian version of the site was launched last December. The Los Angeles-based company also is expanding elsewhere, with News Corp. and Japan's Softbank Corp. forming a joint venture, for instance, to bring the service to that country.

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