News Corp- invested MySpace China aims to launch an online messaging service "as soon as possible", its CEO said on Wednesday, as the venture fights for a bigger share of the world's second-largest Internet market.
MySpace China had invited technicians to test a beta version of an instant messaging service, which they said needed more high-end features, such as video, to attract users, Luo Chuan, chief executive of MySpace China, told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry conference.
"The roll-out depends on user feedback and whether the performance is able to satisfy users' demands. We hope to roll it out quickly, as soon as possible," said Luo, the former head of Microsoft Corp's MSN China.
Social networks like MySpace and Facebook let users share images, music, videos and blogs and are popular among teenagers.
MySpace China's IM service is likely to face stiff competition from major local players. Internet portal Tencent Holdings, which operates a "QQ" messaging service, controls 79 per cent of the Chinese messaging market, according to Shanghai-based consultancy iResearch.
And Microsoft's online communication tool, MSN Messenger, is already part of everyday life for teenagers and young professionals in China, with over 20 million users there.
Luo declined to comment on user figures for MySpace China, but media reports have said the site now has around 600,000 registered users.
News Corp's MySpace launched a test in China in April, extending the popular social network into the country, which is home to more than 140 million Web users.
MySpace China is a locally owned, operated and managed company that has secured investment from Rupert Murdoch's MySpace Inc, publisher IDG and China Broadband Capital Partners LP, a fund operated by Edward Tian, the former chief of China Netcom Group.
MySpace China also faces a bevy of local Chinese social networking sites which have already gained a large following.
The most well-known among them - 51.com, Tudou.com and Rox.com.cn - have also benefited from a wave of foreign venture capital which has poured into the market following Google Inc's purchase of YouTube.
51.com told Reuters last month that it had around 60 million registered accounts and was growing by 5 million accounts per month.
MySpace also faces stiff competition from entrenched local portals including Sina Corp and Sohu, which take up a large share of the market.
Analysts who estimate that China's Web surfers spend a combined 2 billion hours a week online amid a rapidly growing online advertising market have said MySpace would face a difficult challenge localising its content to draw in users.