Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, said the new messaging service will go beyond traditional email [AFP]

Facebook, the social networking website, has launched an online messaging service which includes its own email address.

Mark Zuckerberg, the company founder, unveiled what he called a "convergent" modern messaging system on Monday that "handles messages seamlessly across all the ways you want to communicate."

The messaging service combines an online chat programme, text messaging and other real-time conversation tools with traditional email, which Zuckerberg said had declined in popularity for being too slow for young Internet users.

"It is true that people will be able to have facebook.com email addresses, but this is not email," Zuckerberg said at an event in the US city of San Francisco.

"It handles email."

Intense rivalry

But Zuckerberg, who said more than 350 million of Facebook's half-billion users now actively send and receive messages on his website, stressed that he did not see the modern messaging system as being only email-based.

He said the new feature lets users send instant text messages in addition to standard email and Facebook communications.

The intensifying rivalry between Facebook and search engine Google is expected to play a crucial role in shaping the future of the Internet.

The industry is closely watching their struggle for web surfers' time online, advertising dollars, and increasingly costly talent from Silicon Valley, an information technology hub in the US state of California.

Source: Agencies