Facebook sells stake to Microsoft, partners with RIM

Microsoft acquired a 1.6 percent stake in social networking service Facebook for $240 million, a deal that values the website at $15 billion. Microsoft will now sell Internet ads across the Facebook platform both inside and outside the U.S., expanding a marketing alliance first launched last year. 

The news followed hours after Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz's keynote appearance at the CTIA Wireless I.T. and Entertainment event in San Francisco, where he announced the debut of Facebook for BlackBerry Smartphones, a mobile social networking software application developed in collaboration with device maker Research In Motion. According to RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridus, who joined Moskovitz onstage at CTIA, Facebook for BlackBerry Smartphones leverages the push-based BlackBerry system architecture with the open Facebook Platform--the app will make its carrier debut via an exclusive deal with T-Mobile.

"Mobile is the next frontier in social networking," Moskovitz said.

Facebook for BlackBerry Smartphones enables Facebook users to send and view messages, photos and related content via mobile--it automatically pushes notifications to the BlackBerry device, allowing users to upload photos complete with captions and tags. The app also enables users to send event invites, manage photo albums and manage their Facebook status away from the PC.

Facebook and Research In Motion inaugurated their collaboration about six months earlier. "Within two days, we had our first working prototype, and we realized we were really on to something," Lazaridus said Thursday. "We realized that with two open platforms, we could start intimately linking them together." 

According to Moskovitz, Facebook now boasts an active membership close to 50 million--after crunching numbers in the Microsoft deal, each of those members is worth roughly $300. It is also the most trafficked photo site on the web, housing close to four billion images.

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