updated 10/17/2007 8:00:58 AM ET 2007-10-17T12:00:58

News Corp.'s MySpace will offer members of its popular social network free Internet phone calls with a new feature based on eBay Inc.'s Skype service, the companies announced Tuesday.

Users with a Skype account will be able to click a single button in their MySpace profile to call the computer or telephone of another member, so they could reach people in their network even when they're not online. The service will be available in 20 countries starting in November.

MySpace, the largest social-networking site with 110 million members, will share revenue from the deal with Skype, which allows customers to place long-distance calls using their computers. Skype, the Luxembourg-based division of eBay, has 220 million registered users.

Standard PC-to-PC phone calls will be free, but users must pay for "premium" options such as their own personal phone number, voice mail, call forwarding, and the ability to make calls from a computer to land lines or cell phones.

Executives would not disclose other financial terms of the deal, which comes as both companies strive to expand membership amid growing competition.

The competition
One of MySpace's biggest rivals is fast-growing Facebook.com, which has more than 47 million active users — including at least 200,000 new registrations per day since January.

On Wednesday, San Jose-based eBay is expected to report taking a $900 million impairment charge for Skype — an acknowledgment that the e-commerce leader drastically overvalued the $2.6 billion acquisition, completed in October 2005.

Skype co-founder and CEO Niklas Zennstrom stepped down earlier this month to spend more time working on independent projects. EBay chief strategy officer Michael van Swaaij, formerly vice president for European operations, is acting CEO as the company seeks a replacement.

Skype and MySpace executives began discussing a partnership in June, and within weeks, programmers at both companies began working on the new offering, which will be featured as part of MySpace's instant messenger service. More than 25 million MySpace users have installed the IM program.

Opting out
Kyle Brinkman, MySpace vice president of product development, said the service won't be another vehicle for unwanted solicitations in MySpace, a unit of Fox Interactive Media Inc.

Users who set their MySpace profile to "private" won't receive a Skype call from someone who is not on their friend list. Users may also selectively add individuals to their Skype personal contact list, and any call can be blocked at any time.

"We went to Skype and said we could incorporate your voice engine into our network — we're not just slapping on an instant messenger client that doesn't connect to MySpace," Brinkman said in a phone interview. "It's not just a stand-alone product offering — it's tightly integrated into the MySpace experience."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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