In a move to extend the reach of its Windows Live Messenger chat service, Microsoft today released some tools to add chat to Websites. Any Website can add a chat feature and tap into the 320 million active Windows Live Messenger users. It is quick and dirty way to add a social element to any Website, and at the same time it is yet one more distribution point for Live Messenger (consumers who want to chat on Websites with the feature will have to sign up if they don’t already have an account.).
The growing acceptance of Facebook Connect, which offers Websites much more than chat, is lighting a fire under other Web companies to offer similar services. Chat is the sort of feature that most sites wouldn’t build for themselves, but which increase visitor engagement on a site (even is that is engagement with other users instead of with the site itself).