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updated 2/28/2008 11:45:57 AM ET 2008-02-28T16:45:57

Microsoft Corp.'s big bet on Facebook's online social network isn't stopping Chairman Bill Gates from promoting other popular Internet hangouts.

(Msnbc.com is a Microsoft-NBC Universal joint venture.)

Gates is helping out LinkedIn Corp.'s online professional network by setting up a profile on the service and posing a question to help draw more attention to a makeover of the Web site's front page.

The question will solicit suggestions on the best way to encourage more young people to pursue careers in science and technology.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn will encourage its 19 million members to try out a new tool that will let them broadcast their daily activities to their connections. The "status" feature copies one of the top applications on Facebook's site, which revolves around a more playful premise than LinkedIn's buttoned-down atmosphere.

Gates plans to use LinkedIn's status feature, although he decided against listing "trying to buy Yahoo" as his current activity. He instead will start off by letting everyone know "Bill is checking out LinkedIn."

The decision to take a closer look at LinkedIn might please a few industry analysts who have argued Microsoft would be better off buying several up-and-coming Internet startups like LinkedIn instead of pursuing its current bid to acquire slumping Yahoo Inc. for more than $40 billion.

Although LinkedIn is frequently mentioned as an attractive takeover candidate, the Mountain View-based company so far has indicated it is more likely to make an initial public offering of stock during the next year or two. LinkedIn spokeswoman Kay Luo declined to comment on Microsoft's possible interest.

Microsoft late last year invested $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Palo Alto-based Facebook Inc., whose 66 million members make it the Internet's second largest social network behind News Corp.'s MySpace.

Gates is among Facebook members, although he reportedly stopped using the site recently because he was tired of sifting through the thousands of requests from requests from strangers who wanted to befriend him. Microsoft declined to comment Wednesday about Gates' status on Facebook.

LinkedIn offers privacy controls that will enable Gates to block requests to connect with him on the network.

Gates probably will want to use that tool because LinkedIn members have a keen interest in the billionaire. Even before he set up his LinkedIn profile, Gates was the most searched person on the site, edging out Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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